Just as modern artists looked to Rembrant to reestablish etching as a painter’s medium, Haskell adopted an engraving technique inspired by fifteenth-century examples. Beginning in 1912, Haskell completed a series of plates rendered in what he called the “flick” manner, a labor-intensive technique that uses a multitude of tiny dots to simulate continuous tone. After sketching the composition with a faint line, Haskell used a pointed needle to gouge out tiny shards of metal from the printing surface, a procedure that took months to complete. Arabella, was in progress the year Haskell died.
Two stages of work document Haskell’s process for resolving the image. In the first state, progress on the sitter’s forearm is under way, with ink collected around metal displaced from carving. By the third stage, Haskell had carefully removed these furrows, and made adjustments to the woman’s gloved hand and necklace, as well as to the bird she holds.
Haskell was responsible for reframing the mid-eighteenth-century tradition of stipple engraving. “Stipple” generally refers to a process of rendering forms with small marks, and it was hardly a new printmaking method in his time. Commercial printmakers reproducing oil paintings developed specialized tools for covering large areas with dotted patterns. Like etching, stipple engraving did not need to be rediscovered; rather, with his engravings, Haskell applied a revival-era mind-set to make the technique his own.
KG, How He Was to His Talents exhibition, March 24, 2011-August 7, 2011