James Abbott McNeill Whistler ( American, 1834 - 1903 )
The American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler is generally credited with spurring the Etching Revival, an artistic movement that flourished in Britain and France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The artists of the Etching Revival sought to renew etching as a form of original artistic expression rather than mere reproduction. Their graphic work not only looked back to the open, painterly style of Rembrandt and his generation but demonstrated a modern sensibility in the choice of subject matter. In the 1880s, Whistler's etchings and drypoints tended to be smaller and simpler, with less fine detail and surface tone than his earlier prints. His prints of this decade are characterized by abbreviated, expressive lines. Whistler's last etchings showcase his command of the medium with richness and variety. Whistler maintained that because the etcher's needle was small, the etching should also be small. He also insisted no margin should be left outside the plate mark; after 1880 he trimmed etchings to the plate mark, leaving only a tab for his signature in the form of a butterfly.