Surface Tension: Etchings from the Collection - Exhibitions

Surface Tension: Etchings from the Collection

July 13, 2024–January 12, 2025

Upper Jetté Gallery

In 1891, the artist-printmaker James McNeill Whistler remarked: “Without acid, there is no etching.” Distinct from engraving and relief—printmaking techniques that rely simply on incising lines onto a metal plate or wood block—etching involves the painterly and deliberate application of powdered rosins, grounds, solvents, and acids to create not only lines, but also textural, tonal, and abrasive effects. Artists were newly empowered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to experiment with the chemical and material properties of acids, mordants, metal plates, and ink which resulted in compositions of great depth and intensity.

Drawn entirely from the Colby College Museum of Art’s collection, including several recent acquisitions, the show features leaders of the nineteenth-century Etching Revival, like Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, twentieth-century innovators, such Stanley William Hayter and Mavis Pusey, on up to the contemporary practitioners as Leonardo Drew, Amy Sillman, and Terry Winters, among others. This exhibition showcases the incredible technical, formal, and conceptual versatility of the medium over time, demonstrating why it holds such extraordinary scientific and artistic distinction within the broader practice of printmaking.

This exhibition is organized by Elisa Germán, Lunder Curator of Works on Paper and Whistler Studies.

Leonardo Drew, CPP1, 2015. Flat bite toner transfer with aquatint printed in blue on Magnani Revere paper, 55 3/4 × 42 5/8 in. (142.2 × 106.7 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, Purchase of the Lindsay Leard Coolidge ’78 Print Acquisition Fund and the Jere Abbott Acquisitions Fund, 2017.522.

Selected Works

Click on any image above to see captions and view larger.

Banner image: Edgar Degas, Les Blanchisseuses (The Laundresses) (detail), 1879. Etching and aquatint with burnishing, printed in black ink, state ii/IV, 8.5 × 11.8 in (21.5 × 30.3 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Collection, 2023.298.