Printmakers You Should Know

After months of anticipation, I have finally started a beginning etching class at the BCA print studio. I can't tell you how many times I've read about the etching process for my art history classes, but I know that doing it for myself will completely change my understanding of the medium.

To celebrate this milestone in my artmaking life, I'm going to introduce you to a master of etching: Ernest Haskell (1876-1925).

General Sherman, 1914 or 1915, etching
Monterey Pine (Black Spruce), 1912, etching

Amelia, 19th-20th century, engraving

Initially a newspaper illustrator and poster designer, Haskell took up etching after meeting James Abbott McNeill Whistler during a trip to Europe. Though he was interested in modern art, Haskell himself preferred working in a traditional, naturalistic manner, and used the meticulous styles of Albrecht Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, and other Old Masters to render American subjects and scenes. 

Haskell worked in a variety of subjects, but he's best known for his landscapes. During the first two decades of the 20th century, he created several etchings based on American trees.  In these scenes, Haskell juxtaposes the massive scale of the trees with scrupulous detail, demonstrating his interest in mastering the technical aspects of etching. 

To my knowledge, the most thorough and recent exhibition done on Haskell's work occurred at Amherst College in 2011, but he definitely deserves more attention. As with Hildegarde Haas, I first became interested in Haskell when I was an intern at the DMA, and featured one of his prints, Baby Sequoia, in my landscape show.

Baby Sequoia, 1915, etching and engraving
I couldn't help but admire Haskell's technical prowess. It wasn't simply the detail that impressed me, but the clarity and control of the lines. There was no hesitation, no quavering, just confidence and surety. True, some people might think his work a bit excessive in its detail, but you have to agree, this was an artist who had truly mastered the etching medium, and that is an accomplishment that deserves admiration.

Haskell's etching as it appeared in my show at the DMA
 Though I was sketching trees before I looked at Haskell's work, his pieces only underscored my commitment to them, and his detailed style is definitely reminiscent of mine, albeit his work is far more refined. 

Some of my own tree-inspired drypoints

Perhaps with time and practice, I'll get closer to his level.

If you're interested in learning more about Haskell, check out these sites: