Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art

University of Texas at Austin, TX




The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler from the Collection of Steven Block


The lithographs of 19th-century American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler are among the artist's most abstract and personal expressions and are exceptional examples of this technique. The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin is proud to present "The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler from the Collection of Steven Block." Drawn from the largest privately held collection of Whistler's lithographs, this exhibition conveys the artist's time and place through the delicate tonalities of these sensuous, modernist compositions. The exhibition is on view from September 8 through October 22, 2000 in the Blanton's Art Building gallery at 23rd and San Jacinto on the UT campus. (left: The Thames (Second State of 3), 1896, lithotint on china paper laid down on white wove, Collection of Stephen Block; The Duet, 1894, lithograph on fine laid paper, Collection of Stephen Block)

This exhibition of more than eighty works represents Whistler's entire oeuvre in lithography, displaying the full range of his explorations in the medium. Jonathan Bober, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Painting at the Blanton states, "Given Whistler's role in the development of modernism and prominence in the history of the technique, but the Museum's possession of only two examples, the exhibition seemed an excellent idea." The exhibition was organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, based in Washington, D.C.

Since 1798, the process of lithography has been cherished as a method for quick and inexpensive reproduction. Despite the early flourishing of lithography as a means of artistic expression, by the mid-nineteenth century, this printmaking process had come to be primarily identified with social commentary and commercial applications. The 1890s, however, saw a revival in lithography as an art form, as the conception and individual hand of the artist became paramount. Along with painting and drawing, the art of lithography was at last granted the position of a valued medium for original artistic production, and the lithographs of James McNeill Whistler represent a primary and critical stage in this transition. (left: The Draped Figure-seated, 1893, lithograph on fine antique laid paper, Collection of Stephen Block)

Produced from 1878 through the late 1890s, Whistler's experiments pushed both the methods and the vocabulary of lithography in new directions. Technically, Whistler worked with his printers to develop and expand the process in a number of ways. Perhaps most notably, they advanced the development of the lithotint, a method characterized by inks appearing as dilute washes, layered one over the other in veils of faint tones. While Whistler did produce a small number of colored lithographs, his black and white compositions, too, evoke a mysterious sense of color through these gentle variations and layers of ink. This delicate manipulation of line and apparent color spoke directly to a grander movement in Whistler's art, toward increased atmosphere and mood, and toward more abstracted forms and vaguely poetic arrangements. Created at the dawn of modernism, these lyrical compositions represent not only Whistler's most original and personal visual expressions, but also critical precursors to twentieth-century non-representational art. (left: Draped Figure Reclining, 1890-1893, lithograph on thin laid japan paper in gray, green, pink, yellow, blue & purple, Collection of Stephen Block; right: Rotherhithe, 1860, etching, Kennedy 63, 3rd state of 3, Collection of Stephen Block)

In conjunction with The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, the Blanton also presents Whistler as art Etcher: His Work and His Followers. Whistler, the etcher, was much revered through the early twentieth century, and this exhibition reveals thirty examples by the artist and his immediate followers, rounding out the portrait of Whistler as a printmaker. Organized by Jennifer Sherlock, the Blanton's graduate intern in the department of prints and drawings, Whistler as an Etcher includes works drawn entirely from the Blanton's own permanent collection. (left: Nocturne, 1878-1887, lithotint on blue-gray paper, laid on white wove, Collection of Stephen Block)


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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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