Original Etchings by American Artists was published at a time in American history when the country was trying to establish an artistic identity and visual presence that could rival Europe’s. Sylvester Rosa Koehler, the first curator of prints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and editor of this work, went on to be a curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian and was also an editor and contributor to the American Art Review. He commissioned all of the etchings included in the volume and he chose artists who were at the top the 19th century American art scene. Through his publishing and scholarship, Koehler had a huge impact on the course of American art history and contributed to the renaissance of etching and engraving in American Art. In some ways this publication was meant to elevate the American taste for landscape and genre art put forth by the American Art Union, which had a more sentimental view of art and promoted artists that took fewer artistic risks. Many of these prints from this volume can be viewed individually in museums around the country, and it is rare to find a complete volume today. Dartmouth’s volume is in fact missing two prints, which have been generously provided in this collection by the Smith College Museum of Art.
Dartmouth's copy of Original Etchings by American Artists can be viewed in Sherman Art Library by asking for NE2186 .K7 in Art Special. The prints also be viewed in Artstor, and via Shared Shelf Commons.
To learn more about the American Art Union and its impact on American Art in the 19th century, read Laura Graveline's, Dartmouth Art History Librarian, short blog post on the organization.
This work was curated by Monica Erives '14, the Edward Connery Lathem Digital Library Fellow.