Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Aquatint is a kind of archaic printing technique, which produces an effect resembling a watercolor from a plate etched with nitric acid. Its use began in the late 1700s and continued throughout the 18th century and on, though it eventually became less prominent as new lithographic techniques emerged in the mid-19th century. However, it had some famous devotees, including Goya, John James Audubon, and Mary Cassatt — all of whom used the technique to produce print series during their careers. Broadly speaking, it is an intaglio printmaking style, which involves etching directly into a plate (in the case of aquatint, the plate is copper or zinc).
In October, the National Gallery of Art will present Aquatint: From Its Origins to Goya, a survey of works that employ this medium across a range of subjects. Roughly 100 aquatint images are to be included in the exhibition, which will trace its development through France, England, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. The layering produced by acid wash over etching creates effects ranging from illustrative to nearly photographic; the subject matter includes political cartoons, mythic and occult scenes, landscapes, and illustrated details for manuscripts.
The exhibition features the work of historic figures in the evolution of aquatint, such as François Boucher, Jean Honoré Fragonard, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze in Paris; the painter Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, who developed a secret aquatint process to multiply his own compositions of Russian figures and landscape; artist Paul Sandby, who helped popularize the medium in England; and Maria Catharina Prestel, prominent female practitioners of aquatint, who ran a professional printmaking studio in Germany with her husband, Johann Gottlieb Prestel.
There is also a book slated to accompany the exhibition, supported by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and written by Rena M. Hoisington, curator and head of old master prints at the National Gallery of Art.
Since aquatint was a medium taken up by professional printmakers, amateurs, and painter-printmakers alike, it contributed to the hunger for art and knowledge in its time, allowing for the dissemination of replicas of masterwork paintings and the expansion of historical knowledge.
While today, aquatint is a throwback, this exhibition looks to trace its origins, present standout examples within its canon, and examine ways in which a single medium helped to shape Western thought and discourse for hundreds of years.
Aquatint: From Its Origins to Goya opens on October 24, 2021, in the West Building, Ground Floor, Inner Tier of the National Gallery of Art, and will remain on display through February 21, 2022.
Correction 9/24/21 12:04pm EST: An earlier headline of this piece stated that Mary Cassatt aquatints are included in the NGA exhibition. While Cassatt employed the technique, her work is not included in the Aquatint: From Its Origins to Goya exhibition, and the headline has been amended.
The autumn holiday of Sukkot continues to offer solace and community for new generations.
Equity should be discussed in the form of European and American institutions partnering with the Benin government to create sustainable museums.
This exhibition in Great Falls, Montana addresses the concept of intention in contemporary fiber art and its complex relationship with the history of women’s art as craft.
Yamasaki’s most well-known projects — the twin towers and the Pruit-Igoe housing project — were both destroyed on national television.
An exquisitely illustrated and enlightening new book reveals the screen’s unique role in Japanese history and culture from its origins to the 20th century.
Explore new avenues in artistic practice and scholarship amongst a diverse cohort of peers while gaining leadership skills both academically and professionally.
Find the perfect gifts for friends and family.
There is nothing extraordinary about Murphy’s subjects and yet there is something inexplicably disturbing about her paintings and drawings.
In this exhibition, curated by Patrick Flores and presented by Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Paiwan artist Sakuliu reflects on interspecies co-sharing and coexistence.
Participatory photography aims to counter the pitfalls of photography as an exploitative or voyeuristic medium.
This week, a Frank Stella is installed as a public artwork in NYC, the women behind some iconic buildings, looting Cambodia, fighting anti-boycott laws, and more.
An Original Copy of US Constitution Sells for $43.2 Million, Becoming Most Expensive Document Ever Sold
MoMA board member Ken Griffin went well over asking for the document, beating out cryptocurrency enthusiasts who crowdfunded to purchase it.