Haskell once claimed to have been Whistler’s most devoted disciple. He was not alone in his reverence: Whistler had a profound impact on the revival of etching through his groundbreaking print portfolios. Whistler’s philosophy permeated critical discussion of etchings for the rest of the nineteenth century.
Whistler published "Douze eaux-fortes d’après nature" ("Twelve Etchings from Nature"), known as the French Set, at the time that the French Barbizon artists were exploring etching, and scholars in the emerging field of art history were reappraising seventeenth-century Dutch art. Both groups paid particular attention to Rembrandt, the adopted patriarch of a growing number of nineteenth-century painter-etchers. Whistler’s subject—an elderly laborer seen in profile—recalls seventeenth-century examples, yet his method was innovative. The physicality of the etching process is evident in the finished image: dark areas full of deeply-bitten scratches are framed by an open, richly-textured area corroded by acid.
Haskell prepared his Paris Set, "Twelve Etchings", half a century after Whistler’s famous series, yet the elder artist’s impact could not be more clearly felt. Haskell completed his series in 1910, during his last sojourn in Paris. With "Ribbon Vendor," Haskell appropriated Whistler’s motif and technical approach while advancing his own point of view. Haskell suggests Whistler’s characteristic door frame with the physical dimensions of the printing plate and translates the older artist’s continuous scrawl into slower, broken lines that are highly descriptive. Haskell’s print is more a character study than an interior scene, a type in keeping with his later specialties in caricature and anthropomorphic “tree portraits.” The entire print series exemplifies Haskell’s desire to refine modern art by directly engaging earlier artistic forms.
KG, How He Was to His Talents exhibition, March 24, 2011-August 7, 2011
Link to share this object record: