The brilliant, intricate etchings of John Taylor Arms remain unsurpassed in the incredible detail of their handling.
Born in Washington D.C., Arms began studying law at Princeton University but in 1907 transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture, earning a masters degrees in 1912. For five years after his graduation, he went to work for some of America’s most prestigious architectural firms. After a short term in the navy he decided to devote himself to etching. In 1913, he made his first etching and by 1927 began exhibiting his architectural etchings at the National Arts Club and the Salmagundi Club in New York. He also worked in aquatint and often combined the two mediums.
Arms felt that art consisted of only two elements: spiritual meaning and technique. Gothic architecture became the
focus and inspiration for his masterly etched works, for to John Taylor Arms the Gothic style “combined... all that was beautiful in man-made building - grandeur of scale, beauty of proportion and abundant wealth of detail” exemplifying mankind’s highest achievement in bringing together both spiritual and aesthetic values.
Arms would spend up to two weeks on a preliminary drawing which he would then transfer to the plate. Amazingly, he used only ordinary sewing needles to draw his detail. Such detail was often so precise that he had to rely on a magnifying glass to add the dots and lines that suggest variation in shade. Once he even adjusted a compass to draw circles of 1/16" in diameter to create a floor of Florentine tile, devoting over 2,000 hours of labour to complete a single finished plate. Such meticulous workmanship has earned this brilliant etcher enduring fame.