The Art Gallery of New South Wales presents an exhibition of over 100 Australian etchings and wood engravings made between the 1880s and 1930s. The works are drawn from the gallery’s permanent collection and will be on display from 5 May to 22 July 2007.
Australian printmaking flourished in the period 1880s to 1930s. During this time, and particularly in the 1920s and '30s, etching and engraving experienced a remarkable resurgence, mirroring earlier revivals in Europe and America. For the first time, etchings and engravings invited serious, sustained engagement by artists and critics in Australia, and prints attained a new status in Australian art.
Many artists were influenced by the work of great European masters especially those whose work could be seen in Australian collections such as Rembrandt and Whistler. They were also increasingly exposed to the work of their British, American and European contemporaries through publications and travel. The best printmakers took on these lessons while simultaneously engaging distinctly Australian subjects, to create works of lasting significance in the story of Australian art.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales was inextricably linked with the boom in etchings and engravings, as much of it centred on Sydney. Artists key to the etching revival are featured in the exhibition, including Lionel and Norman Lindsay, Sydney Ure Smith and Syd Long, who were also trustees of the gallery. These influential figures encouraged the collection of their Australian and international contemporaries as well as prints of the past and created a strong foundation for the gallery’s Australian print collection.
The collection was built upon in subsequent decades with the acquisition of work by other artists such as Jessie Traill, who produced one of the most celebrated Sydney series of etchings on the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early 1930s.
An informative on-line exhibition catalogue will be available at www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/catalogues.
Anne Ryan, curator of Australian Prints and of this exhibition, will give an exhibition talk Wednesday 9 May at 5.30pm as part of the Gallery's Art After Hours program.