Whistler and Pennell: Etching the city is a special exhibition at Sudley House, a lovely small museum in Liverpool. I visit Sudley House regularly as their special exhibitions are usually fascinating. In 2017 I saw the exhibitions the 1930s and Transformation, and in 2018 I went to see Fashion from the 1950s, and Costume Drama back in 2012.
If you would like to know more about etching, have a look at this 4 minutes clip made by National Museums Liverpool on youtube. It is on continuous loop at the exhibition too.
The exhibition has artworks by Whistler and Pennell, but from other artists as well. I will mention them at the end of the post.
James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was a well known artist of his day. He was born in Massachusetts in a Puritan family and went to West Point. He learned etching while he worked at the US Coastal Survery in Washington DC. He moved to Paris to study art, before moving to London in 1859.
Whistler made this etch of Thames Police in 1859. He could spend up to three weeks capturing every detail.
A detail of Whistler’s Rotherhithe, made in 1860. Rotherhithe is an etch about a skipper and his mate, having a break to smoke their pipes.
Detail of Whistler’s Eagle Wharf, made in 1859. Magnifying glasses are available for visitors who want to see the details. It is impressive how detailed these etches are.
Joseph Pennell (1857 – 1926) is known for his etchings of New York and industrial works. He was born in a Quaker family in Philadelphia. He studied at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art. He married Elizabeth Robins who was a writer and art critic. They moved to England in 1884 and became friends with Whistler. Whistler entrusted the Pennells to write his biography, which was published in 1908.
Pennell’s Main Street, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania was made in 1908. In 1908 there were 41 coal mines in the Mahanoy Valley.
Detail of Pennell’s Pittsburgh, made in 1908, shows the white skyscrapers in contrast with the dark smoky sky.
Another etching made in 1908 by Pennell, New York from Brooklyn Bridge must be a highlight of the exhibition. Pennell returned to New York in 1904 and saw a very different landscape from what he saw before he left US, 20 years earlier.
Pennell’s From Courtland Street Ferry, New York is sandpaper aquatint on paper, made too in 1908.
Paris in the late 17th century, made by Charles Meryon in 1861. He left the Navy to paint, but etching was more suitable for him, as he was partially colour-blind.
Another etching made by Charles Meryon, Le Pont Neuf, in 1853. This in one of 25 etches he made of Paris in 4 years.
This etching plate was made by Sir Francis Seymour Haden in 1882 and this is Encombe woods. The plate has deep scores meaning it was cancelled and no other impressions can be made, as a way to control the number of editions printed from a plate.
Sudley House is on Mossley Hill Rd, Liverpool, L18 8BX. There is a small free car park, but we always find a parking place. Whistler and Pennell: Etching the city can be seen until 29 March 2020.