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William James Bennett: Master of the Aquatint View


November 7th, 2008 - March 29th, 2009

During the 1830s and early 1840s, William James Bennett (ca. 1784-1844) made a series of topographical prints that not only celebrated the beauty of the American landscape, but also recorded the young nation's growing urban centers, with a special focus on New York. Bennett documented the bustling waterfront activity of thriving ports, bathing them in luminous light that unified water, ships, and architecture. Capturing the optimism of the new country, Bennett's magnificent works rendered in aquatint, a printmaking process that suggests the fluidity and transparency of watercolor are regarded as the finest folio views of 19th-century American cities. The 40 prints and watercolors in this exhibition are drawn from the Print Collection of The New York Public Library, many from The Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints, donated to the Library by I. N. Phelps Stokes in 1930. This exhibition has been made possible by the continuing generosity of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.