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Acid on Metal: The Art of Etching and Aquatint at MFAH

Fisherman in a Rowboat by Adolphe Appian, 1887

Fisherman in a Rowboat by Adolphe Appian, 1887

Acid on Metal: The Art of Etching and Aquatint
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
September 11 through November 27, 2011

Highlighting the range of experimentation of the intaglio printmaking technique by artists from the 16th century to today, Acid on Metal: The Art of Etching and Aquatint will open September 11, 2011, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s (MFAH) Audrey Jones Beck Building. The etching and aquatint printmaking processes have captivated artists for centuries, from Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya to Whistler, Hopper, Klee and Turrell. In addition to the works of art, etching tools, plates and books will be exhibited.

Primarily showcasing works from the MFAH collection, as well as a selection from the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Rice University, and private collections, the exhibition will display over 60 etchings and aquatints, on view through November 27, 2011. The exhibition title, Acid on Metal, refers to the technical process in which acid is used to “bite” an image into the plate before printing it on paper.

“Etching has its own distinct visual appeal, and effects created in this medium are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in another medium. Featuring an impressive selection of influential artists, and running the gamut from the Renaissance to contemporary art, Acid on Metal reveals how artists utilized etching in different fashions throughout time,” commented Dena Woodall, assistant curator of prints and drawings. “The exhibition demonstrates an incredible array of artistic expressions in the medium, and we hope audiences will come away with an enhanced understanding of etching and aquatint.”

Organized chronologically, Acid on Metal begins with work from the 16th century, after etching was first adapted in Germany, inspired by medieval artisans who incised designs into armor and shields. In the mid-1600s, the process evolved to convey enriched tonal values, and by the 17th century—known as the “great age of etching”—the technique had been perfected—notably by Rembrandt. The painter-printmaker movement of the mid-to-late 19th century renewed the technique in France, England and America, and the revival continued into the 20th and 21st century with artists practicing Expressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art.

The exhibition is the second in a series of MFAH print exhibitions that examines printmaking techniques. Going with the Grain: Woodcuts from Houston Collections, in 2008, focused on the woodcut; upcoming shows will feature lithography, mezzotint, and screen-print processes.


This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Generous funding is provided by UNITED. Additional funding is provided by International Fine Print Dealers Association and the Harry S. and Isabel C. Cameron Foundation.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Established in 1900, the MFAH is the largest cultural institution in the region. The majority of the museum’s presentations take place on its main campus, located in the heart of Houston’s museum district, which comprises the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Glassell School of Art and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. The Beck and Law buildings are connected underground by The Wilson Tunnel, which features James Turrell’s iconic installation The Light Inside (1999). Additional resources include a repertory cinema, two significant libraries, public archives and a state-of-the-art conservation and storage facility. Nearby, two remarkable house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The encyclopedic collections of the MFAH are especially strong in pre-Columbian and African gold; Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture; 19th- and 20th-century art; photography; and Latin American art. The MFAH is also home to a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA).

Fisherman in a Rowboat by Adolphe Appian, 1887

Fisherman in a Rowboat by Adolphe Appian, 1887

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