Elizabeth Jacklin, Print Cataloguer for the Esmée Fairbairn cataloguing project
The French artist Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) is famed for his paintings and drawings of the Italian landscape, but his etchings are less well-known. I find The Herd at the Watering-place a particularly fascinating example.
Claude made a relatively small number of etchings, around 40 in total. However, he was interested enough to have a printing press of his own, and took an experimental approach to the technique.
To make an etching, the artist works with a metal plate that has been prepared by covering it with a thin layer of a waxy ground. This ground can be very freely drawn into using an etching needle.
When the plate is placed in an acid bath, the acid ‘bites’ into the drawn lines where the ground has been penetrated. The incised lines then hold the ink when printed.
Etching is a chemical process and isn’t always easy to control – any areas in which the etching ground is accidentally damaged will be exposed to the acid and will print black.
The large margin of this print is full of such unintended marks and is in itself a very unusual feature – it has been suggested that the design was made on the back of another plate featuring a larger design. I like the way it frames the image.
I admire Claude’s etchings for their spontaneity and experimentation; this print feels full of life.
The scene itself shows a herdsman standing by while his cattle drink from a river, the water reflecting their heads. On the right a goat has caught the attention of some of the oxen.
This etching was catalogued as part of a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
You can see it on display in the gallery along with some of the other prints catalogued during the project from 14 May – 20 July 2014.Categories: Collection | Tags: Claude Lorrain, etching, printmaking, prints | Leave a comment
The only known self-portrait of Georges Seurat has been discovered more than 130 years after he concealed it in one of his last paintings, Young woman powdering herself (around 1888-1890)
Recent technical examination has revealed that a bust-length self-portrait of Seurat at his easel initially featured in the upper left-hand corner of the painting.
The voluptuous sitter in this work was Seurat’s twenty-year-old mistress Madeleine Knobloch.
A long-standing myth surrounding this work stated that in the mirror on the wall was a self-portrait of Seurat in the act of painting Madeleine.
However, a friend, who was unaware of the intimate relationship between the painter and his model, said that it looked comical and Seurat decided to paint over his self-portrait before the painting went on view.
Thanks to advance in imaging technology, it is now possible to see the layers of paint under the surface and prove that the story is true.
You can read the full report on ‘Seurat’s Hidden Self-Portrait’ by Aviva Burnstock and Karen Serres in the current issue of the Burlington Magazine.Categories: Collection | Tags: pointillism, self-portrait, seurat | Leave a comment