The Rembrandt legacy in printmaking

The master’s influence on nineteen century French painters

Photo: photo: Paul Litherland

François Bonvin, Child eating his soup, 1861, etching,

Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston.  W. McAllister Johnson fund, 2008

Rembrandt was a major figure of the Holland’s “Golden Age” because of his paintings, but he is also considered one of the most important printmakers in Europe, the most important in Holland’s seventeen century.  Indeed, he produced a considerable number of etchings.   Closely involved in the whole process, he was able to appreciate the wide range of possibilities offered by this technique.  The exhibition, now at the villa Bagatelle, opens with a print of Rembrandt’s numerous self portraits, and just for that, a visit would be worth the while. This portrait, however, is there not only to be admired but also to point out the Dutch master’s importance in the history of printmaking in Europe, and his influence on what is known as the “Etching Revival” in nineteen century France.

Etching was originally considered as a mean of reproducing paintings and drawings, and several examples are presented in the exhibition, demonstrating the way printmakers had mastered the effects of light and shadows and the rendering of masses.  One of the prints in the show stresses the importance of the technical advances introduced in etching by Jacques Callot (1592–1635). 

In the nineteen century, on both sides of the English Channel, etching became a potential mean of making original works of art.  Then considered as high art, etching went through its most significant development in the history of French printmaking. As a matter of fact, it became a favored medium of artists of the Barbizon School, known for their determination to have landscapes recognised as an independent subject.  Among them, Jean-François Miller produced a limited number of evocative prints of rural scenes and images of the peasantry.   In 1862, Edouard Manet founded the Société des Aquafortistes.  Known to have worked in various graphic media, Manet has made a remarkable contribution to the revival of printmaking through his bold experimentations.  

The exhibition at Villa Bagatelle is a unique chance for Quebec art lovers to see up close prints by artists such as these, better known for their paintings.   It is also an opportunity to appreciate through the works of well known nineteen century French printmakers, the diverse range of styles offered by this technique of reproduction of images and its role in the accessibility of famous of works of art to a broader audience.

The twenty six works presented in the exhibition were selected by David De Witt, conservator of European part at the Agnes Etherington Art Center at Queen’s university in Kinston Ontario researching and developing scholarship on the artistic heritage of the Dutch master Rembrandt Von Rijn.

The exhibition, French painters and the Dutch tradition of printmaking will run until May 20th at the Villa Bagatelle, 1563 chemin Saint Louis.  It can be seen Wednesdays through Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00PM.  Admission is free and guided tours are offered.