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New Exhibition, “Bertha Jaques: Eye on America,” Opens at CRMA

September 18, 2013
Chicago River
Bertha Jaques, Chicago River, 1901, drypoint, museum purchase, 90.15.7
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA) will present the third in a series of exhibitions focusing on printmaker Bertha Jaques from Sepember 28, 2013 to January 5, 2014. This exhibition, entitled Bertha Jaques: Eye on America, will feature the artist’s scenes of domestic travels, as well as her beloved Chicago. The three successive exhibitions celebrate the 150th anniversary of Jaques’ birth and give repeat visitors an opportunity to gain a better sense of the artist’s breadth and depth of production.

Bertha Jaques, a one-time Cedar Rapidian, was a pioneering printmaker who not only succeeded in a field dominated by male artists, but also helped promote etching in America as a writer, teacher, and co-founder of the Chicago Society of Etchers.  Jaques’ full impact on printmaking and photography at the dawn of the twentieth century is still under-recognized and ripe for reappraisal.

This exhibition is a generous mix that spans the length of her career. Familiar locations, such as Chicago’s Field Museum, are portrayed alongside lesser known places. As viewers look at these etchings, they take away the curiosity and love that Jaques had for these unique locations. In addition, the variety and number of pieces on display allow the viewer to appreciate Jaques’ passion for learning and mastering the process which she learned primarily through dedicated self-teaching. During the early years of her artistic career, she worked with tools fashioned from medical instruments and experimented with a variety of techniques to fully understand how to obtain the results she desired in her prints. Her patience paid off, and she was very willing to share this expertise with fellow etchers that were struggling to get the results they desired in their own prints.

“Well-known in her day as an innovator in the field of etching, Jaques’ reputation has suffered over the years as a result of time,” CRMA Interim Director and Curator Sean Ulmer stated.  “Her home and studio were essential stops for anyone wanting to learn etching in the United States. We see this as an opportunity to show a wider range of her work by doing a three-part series of exhibitions and give modern-day art lovers an opportunity to rediscover this artist.”

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is fortunate to possess nearly every print Jaques created and  several states of certain prints which allow viewers to see the evolution of Jaques’ thought process within a single print. In addition, the collection contains many cyanotypes of botanical subjects as well as Jaques’ archive, filled with personal photographs, correspondence, and essays and lectures. This series of exhibitions is a unique opportunity to look at a portion of this collection.

An opening reception will occur on Friday, October 18, in conjunction with the opening of Some Assembly Required: Collage and Assemblage. Museum members are invited from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and the public is welcome 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

This exhibition has been made possible in part by the Program Fund Grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.