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Venice Through the Eyes of the Etcher
CHESTERTOWN, MD—An exhibition opening Oct. 18 at the Kohl Gallery at Washington College will feature an impressive collection of etchings of Venice made by some of the finest printmakers of the first half of the twentieth century. Focused primarily on work by American artist Ernest David Roth, the exhibition also includes a print by James McNeill Whistler and works by other artists who worked in Venice between 1900 and 1940. An opening reception will take place at the gallery that Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., and the exhibition will continue through Dec. 10, 2013.
The selection of prints was curated by Eric Denker, the senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art and an expert in areas that include Whistler, the history of printmaking, and Italian art and culture. Denker conducted pioneering research into Roth and his contemporaries working in Venice. Through a study of their prints, letters and diaries, he unearthed both artistic and personal connections among the artists that are reflected in the exhibition.
Ernest David Roth (1879-1964) arrived in Venice in 1905, the year he began etching, and his work was shown in the Venice Biennale of 1907. Over the next 35 years he returned frequently to Venice to create the works for which is best known today. He “employed a supple line and rich tone that capture the essence of Venetian architecture,” Denker writes in the catalog to the show.
Roth’s greatest influence was Whistler, another American expatriate who sought to express a “Venice of the Venetians”— the city known only to locals, rather than the typical tourist sights. Roth, in turn, inspired a number of contemporaries, the most important of which are also featured in the exhibition.
Titled Reflections and Undercurrents: Ernest Roth and Printmaking in Venice, 1900-1940, the exhibition organizes the etchings by subject matter to help the viewer appreciate how various artists approached the same scene. Denker, who owns the majority of the prints in the exhibition, will deliver a talk titled “From Whistler to Roth: Fifty Years of Printmaking in Venice, 1880-1930” on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts.
The exhibition was originally organized by the Trout Gallery at Dickinson College, where Denker earned his undergraduate degree. The works from that original Dickinson show are being divided into two simultaneous exhibitions—one at Washington College and one at St. John’s College in Annapolis.
The Kohl Gallery exhibition will include some 30 prints. In addition to the Roths and the Whistler, they include three prints that Denker donated to Washington College. Those prints—one each by Roth, Otto Bacher and Donald Shaw McLaughlin—were given in memory of Ben Kohl, a scholar of medieval and Renaissance Padua and Venice who served on the Board of Visitors and Governors and was a valued friend and supporter of the College and its Miller Library.
Denker, who earned his doctorate from the University of Virginia, is a Senior Lecturer in the Education Department of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He frequently lectures in Italy for the Smithsonian Institute and for the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice. He also teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown and Cornell universities. His books include In Pursuit of the Butterfly: Portraits of James McNeill Whistler (1995), Whistler and His Circle in Venice (2003), and No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice (2007), which he co-wrote with his friend Judith Martin, aka “Miss Manners.”
The exhibition is made possible by Dickinson’s Trout Gallery and sponsored by the Washington College Department of Art and Art History.
Two events related to Reflections and Undercurrents are scheduled during the run of the exhibition. On Nov. 13, Judy Kohl, a former professor of English and Humanities at New York’s Dutchess Community College who now chairs the Friends of the Miller Library, will present a “Fireside Chat,” sharing history about Venice’s expatriate community, plus observations based on five decades of visiting the Italian city, often with her late husband, Ben. Her talk will take place at 5 p.m. in the Faculty Lounge, first floor of Hodson Hall.
And on Wednesday, Dec. 4, Eric Denker returns for “An Afternoon in Venice with Judith Martin,” when he and Martin will chat about their shared love of Venice and their travel experiences there. That event is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts.
Images: Top, Ernest David Roth’s “Reflections, Venice,” 1906. Middle, Curator Eric Denker. Below, Fabio Mauroner’s “The Four Bridges,” 1907.