The Etchings of Venice by Whistler
in a sense most noteworthy of all of his Venetian works, are James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s set of etchings. His etchings were highly anticipated by the Fine Art Society in London. Whistler’s etching involved tremendous skill and patience because it required him to carve into metal. Allegedly he worked with metal plates in a variety of a few different sizes. Created in 1879 and reworked in 1889 is his The Doorway, Venice (Fig.6). “Whistler’s real interest lay in chiaroscuro experiments using dark on light and light on dark.”[i]A dedicated plein-airiste, Whistler roamed the city with prepared copper plates and an etching needle in the way most artists carry a sketchbook and pencil.[ii] The plein air method could truly be connected to the Impressionistic art movement. Furthermore it is believed, with his prints he adopted an entirely new ‘impressionistic’ style. Most impressionist artists of the day were not using etching as a medium. He used a lighter more broken touch well suited to the transient magic of Venice. This artwork created by use of plates depicts a figure, bending at the doorway right near the water. This piece of art encapsulates this Italian city in such an intimate fashion. This print entitled The Doorway, like the others etchings does not fall under the category of a stereotypical grouping of Venetian landmarks.
[i] Lochnan, Katharine Jordan. The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler. New Haven: Published in Association with the Art Gallery of Ontario by Yale UP, 1984. Print.191.
[ii] Honour, Hugh, and John Fleming. The Venetian Hours of Henry James, Whistler, and Sargent. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. Print.38.