In late 19th-century Paris, the printmaking process of etching underwent a revolutionary transformation. Although the technique had existed for centuries and had been practiced by well-known historical artists such as Rembrandt and Jacques Callot, etching had dramatically waned in popularity by 1800.
The status of etching changed in the 1860s, when the French publisher Alfred Cadart and printer Auguste Delâtre co-founded the Société des Aquafortistes (Society of Etchers). This organization used etching to inspire a new interest in prints among artists and the general public alike by providing instruction, equipment, and space for working, exhibiting, and socializing. Their efforts led to what is known as the etching revival, a movement that spread across Europe and the United States.
This exhibition examines the decades that followed the etching revival, when the availability of new technical information about etching allowed artists to experiment more than ever before. Their creative use of process and subject matter—from developing new tools and materials to editing their compositions by producing variations known as “states”—inspired artists for decades to come.
Former Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow
Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
The exhibition is complemented by the online publication Altered States: Etching in Late 19th-Century Paris, made possible by a grant from the IFPDA Foundation.