By ELIZABETH FOOTE
The “American Women and Etching Revival: Works on Paper from the Payne Collection” opened in the Anne Wright Wilson Fine Arts Gallery on Jan. 25. This display exhibits multiple etchings from Louisville’s Warren and Julie Payne collection. The etchings were created by both American women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and by the artists who inspired their art.
According to the description of the collection, there was an etching revival during the 1880s. It was popular during this time period to etch for print making. Chemicals would be applied to a copper plate on which the artist would draw with an etching needle. Some women dedicated themselves to the art, and there are many of these female artists represented in this collection including Louise Prescott Canby, Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements, Blanche Dillaye, Eliza Pratt Greatorex, Ellen Dale Hale, Margaret Hoyt, Hellen Hyde, Rachel A. LaFontaine, Margaret White Lesley, Nan Lindahl, Anna Lea Merritt, Mary Nimmo Moran, Ellen Oakford, Edith Loring Pierce, Edith Penman, Margaret Mary Taylor, Martha Scrudder Twachtman and Berthe Morisot. Some of the male inspirations for these artists are also on display. A few that are represented in the gallery are Seymour Haden, Charles Jacque, Peter Moran, Thomas Moran, James Abbott and McNeill Whistler.
The gallery offers biographies on some of the artists, and in the center of the gallery there is a display case filled with pictures of female artists and the original plate of Mary Nimmo Moran’s piece “Solitude.” The collection is split into four sections: People, Boats, Places and Views. The etchings are full of variety, some in black–and–white others in color, some simplistic, others full of detail.
One of my favorites by Mary Margaret Taylor Fox, “Untitled,” is a beautifully haunting 1890 etching of two boys row boating past the ruins of an old church with an adjoining graveyard. This detailed piece feels as though it has an eerie story behind it. An equally eerie yet beautiful piece on display is “’Tween the Gloaming and the Mirk, When the Kye Come Home” etched by Mary Nimmo Moran in 1883. This piece, imbued with the same aura of an uncanny back story, portrays a gloomy, neglected bridge in the middle of a small pond.
A lighter (and possibly the most beautiful) piece that caught my eye is Ellen Oakford’s “Arch of the Elms” created in 1889. As hinted in the title, this wonderfully detailed etching features a pathway lined with an arch of Elm trees. This is one of those pieces that I would love to jump into and simply walk around in for a while.
One of the few pieces using color is an 1880 etching, “Ophelia,” by Anna Lea Merritt. I believe this piece is meant to add a (slightly sad) face to the character in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.” My favorite piece featuring color, however, is a 1912 woodcut by Helen Hyde, “A Common Scold.” This humorous piece shows a small boy in a sombrero holding his hand out to a grumpy–looking turkey.
Perhaps my favorite piece from the boat section of the gallery is an untitled 1890 etching by Mary Margret Taylor Fox. This piece portrays a church overlooking a peaceful harbor. A slightly more menacing (but still beautiful) addition to the boat section is “Gloucester Harbour Threatening Weather” by Ellen Day Hale, which features three boats struggling through harsh waters.
These are just a few of the great works of art on display in the “American Women and Etching Revival.” It will be open Monday-Friday, noon-4:30 p.m., through March 8. So take a study break, come over to the Anne Wright Wilson Fine Arts Gallery, and get lost in some of these beautiful etchings.