Document Type


Date of Award



Etching, England, History, Landscape drawing

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Art History

First Advisor

Albert Boime

Second Advisor

Kenneth C. Lindsay

Third Advisor

Gabriel P. Weisberg

Subject Heading(s)

Landscapes in art--England ; Etching, British ; Printing--England--History


Books on prints fall into two distinct categories: connoisseurship and instructional manuals devoted to techniques and methods. More than in any other area of art historical investigation, the study of prints has relied upon the distinction between subject matter and technical treatment. In the past this arbitrary distinction rarely permitted the intimate combination of theme and treatment for the study of a print as an integrated object. In printmaking, unlike oil painting, representational accuracy cannot be measured by a standard of “perfection of illusion.” The printmaker must consciously employ symbols or conventions of drawing. Printmaking, like poetry, may be said to be based upon the distance or disparity of form and expression through an understanding of the symbolic language of the print we are able to come to grips with that disparity and understand the print as a whole work of art.

By the early twentieth century the tradition of English landscape etching had faded. Interest in etching had been, primarily, focused on the work of Rembrandt and nineteenth-century printmakers; landscape prints of the seventeenth century were all but forgotten. This dissertation shows that the roots of etching in England reach back to the sixteenth century. By 1585 the first examples of landscape prints were produced in England but for some unexplained reason landscape etchers, unlike English engravers, mezzotinters, and aquatinters, have been ignored by art historians. Consequently, it was with surprise that, in discovering the work of these etchers, such a large corpus of material was brought to light.

The examination of landscape etching in England gives us important evidence of the seminal role that Dutch seventeenth-century art played in the development of the English landscape style. This dissertation documents the early work by immigrant artists who imported landscape art from the Low-lands to England. The landscape prints by the Dutch seventeenth-century artists were an important precedent for English artists who used these landscapes as models of technique and composition. In these landscapes English artists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries found a storehouse of ideas and techniques which they employed almost indiscriminately without regard for the topography of the scene: English artists were stimulated by “foreign” scenes and it made little difference if the scene was of Italy, the Alps, or the Low-lands. The study of Dutch artists who worked in England (and the Dutch art imported into England) permits a reexamination of certain aspects of English art. Dutch art preceded the importation of Italianate art which can no longer be thought of as the prime stimulus for the English school of landscape painting. The art of George Robertson, Richard Byron, Charles Bretherton, John Clerk of Eldin shows the pervasive impact of Dutch art in the eighteenth century so the “renaissance” of interest in Dutch seventeenth-century art by nineteenth-century artists can also be reinterpreted.

In seventeenth-century England the romantic had been redefined as a fascination with an attitude towards the foreign and the exotic. The aesthetic theories of the landscape of the eighteenth century, especially those by Edmund Burke and Reverend William Gilpin, did not introduce new attitudes towards the landscape but rather served to define and formalize the aesthetic qualities that had been evident in landscape prints of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

One of the tasks of this dissertation will be the examination of landscape prints in relation to sociological and cultural conditions that are reflected by their purchase. It is hoped that the main emphasis of this study, the emergence of landscape etching, will shed important light on the development of an English style prior to the industrial revolution.