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Print J: In the Sandhills

Essay/Description

A path between the dunes leads us into this scene of a blustery day at the beach. As we follow the trail back, we notice the silhouette of a woman standing by a fence that separates her from the sea. Clouds roll in above her and a darkening sky presses down ominously on the horizon. We can see sheets of rain in the distance, and although the full fury of the storm is approaching, the woman stands rooted in place, transfixed by the power of nature.

Mary Nimmo Moran’s compositional choices in this etching suggest well-honed skills as an astute observer of the natural world. The work also demonstrates her mastery of the tools and techniques of a skilled etcher. The artist held the etching needle like a pencil, between thumb and forefinger, to draw the outline of the larger cloud masses and to mark the lines of the rain squall. Through the use of a roulette—a toothed, wheeled instrument rolled across the paper to produce small pinpricks that hold ink—the artist created the dense shadows on the horizon. She also employed crosshatching, using the needle to draw lines perpendicular to one another to create the darkened areas around the gathering storm clouds. Returning to using her etching tool like a pencil, Nimmo Moran drew undulating lines to define the dunes and squiggly verticals for the scrub grass, producing a landmass that appears to tremble before the onslaught of the storm.

The support on which an artist chooses to print an etched work can subtly alter its appearance and suggest a distinctive, personal quality. Nimmo Moran printed her work on several types of paper—wove, laid, Handmade Sweden, machine-made Japan—in various shades of white, cream, or tan and used brown or black ink. The artist even occasionally used silk or parchment to print her work. Combining different ink colors with different types and colors of paper or supports lends each impression a one-of-a-kind appearance, even though the artist is creating multiple impressions of the same image. In this print, the artist chose black ink on tan laid paper. The paper’s color effectively evokes the hue of the dunes and helps heighten the qualities of an overcast day. The use of laid paper is intriguing as it has a ribbed, uneven surface resembling handmade paper, enhancing the idea of the work as a singular creation.

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021

Curatorial Remarks

Etching and roulette. Sandra Pauly 3.20.22

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Title(s): 
Print J: In the Sandhills; Between the Sand Dunes
Creator(s): 
Mary Nimmo Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
1881
Materials/Techniques: 
printing ink on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
14.85j
Previous Number(s): 
1426.85j; 23385
Department: 
Not On View

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