Hands Etching–Ô Laborum (Les Mains Qui Gravent)

Sir Francis Seymour Haden British

Not on view

Seymour Haden was the unlikely combination of a surgeon and an etcher. Although he pursued a very successful medical career, he is mostly remembered for his etched work as well as for his writings on etching. He was one of a group of artists, including James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) and Alphonse Legros (1837–1911), whose passionate interest in the medium led to the so-called etching revival, a period that lasted well into the twentieth century. The extolling of etching for its inherent spontaneous qualities reached its pinnacle during this time. While the line of the etching needle, Haden wrote, was "free, expressive, full of vivacity," that of the burin was "cold, constrained, uninteresting," and "without identity." The present print of a pair of hands etching, inscribed with a line from Horace that translates as, "O, sweet solace of labors," was executed for the title page of Haden’s first publication, Études à l’eau-forte (Studies in Etching).
A pair of hands etching a plate; printmaking tools in the foreground at left; a Latin inscription at center: "'O laborum, dulce lenimen."
"Published States: First.-The subject drawn upon the plate is still in outline and 'Seymour Haden' again inserted in left [*right] lower corner. Published on the title-page of the earlier copies of 'Études à l'eau-forte.'"
[Source: Harrington, p. 46]
"State III (D1, H1). Published in 'Études à l'eau-forte' on title page. The hands, especially the left, and the left cuff, are dark, as highlights have not yet been burnished in. With the new signature 'Seymour Haden'"
[Source: Schneiderman, p. 201]

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