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It is the common opinion of all competent judges that the prints department of the Fine Arts has assembled by far the most notable exhibition ever held in this country. Coincident with a revival of public interest in etchings, lithographs, and other forms of modern graphics, there is a remarkable recrudescence of artistic ability along these lines in the United States, and the present exhibition is a striking proof both of the interest of the public and the ability of the artists.
A great many of the visitors are buying copies of the various prints, showing that the appeal of a form of art which is at once within the means of most people and at the same time of high merit is not being made in vain.
The Grand Prize was awarded to the famous engraver, Henry Wolf. His work is grouped in Room No. 30, where considerably over a hundred of his splendid prints are brought together. Born in Alsace in 1852, and a pupil of Jacques Levy in Strasburg, Henry Wolf came to this country in 1871. His present high honor comes as a climax of a long series of official awards for wood engraving.
The Medals of Honor were awarded to C. Harry White and D. A. Wehrschmidt. The Gold Medals were awarded to Allen Lewis, B. Shaw MacLaughlin, J. Andre Smith, Cadwallader Washbnrn, Herman A. Webster, and Gustave Baumann.
Among the winners of Silver Medals were three Californians - Clark Hobart, Perham Nahl and Worth Ryder.
Room No. 30 contains the first etching ever made in America, Joseph Wright's portrait of Washington; the first mezzotint, Peter Pelham's portrait of Cotton Mather; the second known American lithograph, by Bass Otis, No. 1200; the first color aquatint, No. 697, by John Hill, and a large number of exceedingly interesting historical prints, many of them by Paul Revere (more widely known for his exploits as a midnight horseman). These works are displayed in cases that line Wall B. In this room also are shown the best works of the etchers of some twenty years ago, Thomas Moran, Mary Nimmo Moran, Peter Moran, James Smiley, Charles Platt, Stephen Parrish; the work of Robert Blum and Alden Weir bridging that period and today.
The contemporary artists are exhibited in Rooms Nos, 32, 33, 34, with the exception of that of Joseph Pennell, which occupies a separate room, No. 31, and is spoken of in connection with the other individual galleries.
This department owes its distinctive success to Robert B. Harshe, Assistant Chief of the Department of Fine Arts, who is himself an etcher of distinction.