Throughout the eighteenth century, a large number of artists—painters, sculptors, draftsmen, and amateurs—experimented with etching, a highly accessible printmaking technique akin to drawing. Some, like Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, encountered the process within the thriving commerce of the Paris print market. Others, like Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Hubert Robert, experimented with the technique during their student years in Rome. Over the course of the century, the free and improvisational aesthetic of the etching process increasingly was embraced, and French artists looked to seventeenth-century masters, such as Rembrandt in the north, and Salvator Rosa and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione to the south, for inspiration. The expressive potential of the technique was also explored in a more experimental manner by artists like Gabriel de Saint-Aubin and Louis Jean Desprez, who harnessed the inky tonalities of the medium to their personal and idiosyncratic vision. The exhibition includes loans from North American museums and private collections.
The exhibition is made possible by The Schiff Foundation.
The catalogue is made possible by Karen B. Cohen.
Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (French, Paris 1724–1780 Paris). Vue du Salon du Louvre en l'année 1753 (detail), 1753. Etching, image: 5 13/16 x 7 1/8 in. (14.8 x 18.1 cm); sheet: 6 1/4 x 7 5/8 in. (15.8 x 19.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Wrightsman Fund, 2006 (2006.84)