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A water meadow
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Item Details
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A water meadow
Work Type
prints, etchings, works on paper
etching and drypoint
plate: 226mm (width), 150mm (height), support: 330mm (width), 209mm (height)
Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910) was an amateur printmaker in the true sense of the word. A surgeon by profession, he chose etching as a hobby, but soon developed his technique to a high artistic level. Through his work, his speeches and his activities in the Royal Society of Painter Etchers which he founded, he helped to popularise the medium in England, France and the United States, and he eventually saw its status secured in official art circles.

Although Haden made his first etchings around 1845, it was not until twelve years later that he began to seriously create in the medium. At first he worked closely with great American-born artist James McNeill Whistler, his brother-in-law, but eventually their relationship disintegrated as their aesthetics took divergent paths and Whistler's ego (and genius) got the better of him. To his credit, Haden never 'dissed' Whistler's etchings thereafter, though he could stand him personally no longer. More stylistically conservative than Whistler but an excellent technician, Haden was at his best when producing romantic, serene landscapes in either pure etching or etching and mezzotint.

The importance of line and light is pre-eminent in his work and reflects the influence of earlier English artists such as the Norwich school, as well as 17th century Dutch artists like Rembrandt. Although Haden viewed etching as a spontaneous medium, many of his most important compositions were first worked out in preliminary drawings and progressed through several states. Recognition of his art came in the form of a knighthood (which Whistler sneered at), publications, exhibitions and the increased popularity of the etching medium to which he devoted his artistic life. Haden did much to put etching on the map at the Royal Academy and to make its practitioners eligible for election. He has been given something of a raw deal by art historians, seduced by Whistler's brilliance; solidity and loyalty to the craft, which Haden had in spades, are too often overlooked - as is his art.

This plate and On The Test were done on the same day, this one at noon, the other later in the evening. The scene is of the river Test, flowing near the Hampshire market town of Romsey, before reaching nearby Southampton Bay. A letter from Haden to the master printer Frederick Goulding, dated 7 May 1901, refers to the printing of this plate: "Water Meadow in proof sent - just about right in every way - with the line of the distant trees a little darker (as in the proof) away from the sun...Send me back all my precious proofs with the tirage ordered of them; and whenever you have nothing to do, amuse yourself with the printing of 'Water Meadow' till you are sick of the sight of it." This impression is from the second state, before further alterations were made.


The Annex Galleries, 'Francis Seymour Haden',

The Met,

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art August 2018

Collection: Art
Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1971
Accession Number
Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
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