Mill Pond

Mill Pond
Albion Harris Bicknell, 1880-85
monotype, 35.4 x 50.8 cm
(13 15/16 x 20 in.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Brian A. Higgins and Jane Edgington Higgins

Bicknell Biography

In 1881 in Malden, Massachusetts, near Boston, Albion Harris Bicknell began to make and exhibit monotypes. In the 12 November 1881 edition of the Malden City Press, he was given credit for inventing the monotype: "A new discovery in the possibilities of black and white work has been made in our midst by an artist who has been working so quietly that the results thrill Boston art circles with an electric surprise. This is the new prints of Mr. A. H. Bicknell, Malden's talented artist." This article may have angered Boston artist Charles Alvah Walker, who insisted that he had not only invented the monotype completely on his own but also claimed to have coined the term.

Both Bicknell and Walker showed their monotypes actively during the next few years. Despite their rivalry, the monotypes of the two artists had much in common. Both worked primarily in monochrome, making monotypes that were quite large and finished compared with those of William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, and the artists who studied in Paris. Both artists apparently worked from drawings rather than creating their compositions directly on the plate. They favored landscape subjects, wooded and pastoral, composed in a manner strongly favored by French artists of the Barbizon School, whose paintings were greatly admired by many Boston artists of the late nineteenth century. Both artists were especially concerned with subtleties of light and atmosphere, and many of their subjects show a particular season or time of day, as was common among artists associated with the Barbizon, Tonalist, and Impressionist traditions.

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