Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice

John Taylor Arms, (American 1887-1953), Venetian Mirror, 1935, etching. Private collection


The exhibition, Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, has been on view almost a full week and the Mitchell Gallery has had many visitors excited about these views of Venice. Exhibition curator Eric Denker gave a fascinating overview of the artists and their works in his lecture this past Sunday. The connections between many of the artists and the influence and inspiration of James McNeill Whistler on their work is carefully explored.

It is interesting to note the similarities between many of the artists, particularly those artists who had architectural or draftsman training such as John Taylor Arms, Jules Andre Smith, and Louis Rosenberg. These three artists "happened upon" etching--Arms through a small etching kit as a Christmas gift from his wife. Smith taught himself after receiving his degree in architecture from Cornell University, and Rosenberg received a fellowship to study printmaking at the American Academy in Rome following his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Arms's style is very clean and precise, as seen in his etching, Venetian Mirror. Although most of the artists in this exhibition created their drawings directly on the copper plate, this image has the feeling of T-squares, triangles and precision pens. No variances in lines--and in some ways, not as poetic--no wavering liberties are taken, (which does not mean that Arms did not take liberties in composition, as noted in the reflection in the water, which is a mirror image).

                                     Mortimer Luddington Menpes,(Australian, 1855-1938) Piazzetta and 
                                     Ducal Palacec. 1910, etching. Private collection.

Comparison of the same group of buildings (but a detail view rather than vedute, or cityscape) by Mortimer Luddington Menpes (Australian, 1855-1938) depicts a wider contrast in tonality, texture and play of shadows and other atmospheric effects, qualities that are less prominent in Arms' work.

Both of these artists's works possess  strong design and printmaking craftsmanship, as well as understanding of architectural structure, but they have different philosophies about format and composition and these comparisons are part of what makes this exhibition so interesting. And again, going back to Whistler's stylistic innovations and the influence of his visions provides the viewer a unique journey to Venice.

There are 100 prints in this exhibition, part of which are on view the Kohl Gallery at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland through December 10, 2013. And come explore printmaking in our Opening Reception and Family Event on Sunday, November 3 from 3:30-5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public--just remember to turn your clock back one hour!