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Etching revival

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Term describing the heightened popularity of etching in the United States during the late 1870s and 1880s, when many painters took up the medium. The movement represented renewed interest in the creative possibilities of intaglio printmaking, which earlier in the nineteenth century had been regarded predominantly as a method for reproducing works of art. Stimulated by a similar enthusiasm in England and France, American artists and their public looked to precedents in the work of James A. M. Whistler and his circle in London and to the Barbizon painter-etchers of France. The New York Etching Club, formed in 1877, drew many of the leading practitioners together and sponsored exhibitions, while the short-lived American Art Review (1879–81), edited by graphics specialist Sylvester Rosa Koehler (1837–1900), fueled the medium's popularity. Along with biographical and critical essays, it published original etchings. The expanding audience for art in the later nineteenth century provided a middle-class market for these relatively inexpensive products. Generally not tightly descriptive, prints associated with this movement commonly depict outdoor scenes. Typically they offer informal compositions, spontaneous execution, impressionistic imagery, appealing effects of light and atmosphere, and a poetic mood, often suggesting the restful pleasure of solitude. William Merritt Chase, Samuel Colman, Thomas Moran, John Twachtman, and Julian Alden Weir number among the period's leading painters who were also drawn to etching. Not surprisingly, the taste and objectives of the etching revival overlapped those of other late-nineteenth-century anti-academic tendencies, particularly American impressionism, the aesthetic movement, and tonalism.

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