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James McBey

1883 - 1959

The Dean Bridge, Edinburgh by James McBey

The Dean Bridge, Edinburgh   1904

  Original etching.
Signed and titled in pencil.
Ref: Hardie 20
S 304 x 203 mm; P & I 200 x 120 mm
One of only 2 proofs printed in the first state of this rare early plate. In this state the plate is at its finest, dominated by a dark, lowering sky, broken only by the rays of the setting sun. For unknown reasons, James McBey removed the features which give this plate its drama, burnishing away the entire sky to create the second state which he published in the sole edition of 10 proofs. The sole other impression in the first state of the plate is in the Rosenwald Collection in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA (Rosenwald Collection 1943.3.5925).

Martin Hardie singles this plate out amongst the finest of James McBey's early works. Having discussed McBey's earliest etchings he remarks that certain subjects give "hints of what the future held in store, but not till the Dean Bridge, with its note of drama, is there another outstanding plate. This is one of the first of an Edinburgh set, made in the winter of 1902, when McBey was doing duty in the Edinburgh branch of his bank - a fact that accounts for a long series of Edinburgh nocturnes, with lamplight flickering, or moonlight shining, in the snowy, dispeopled streets under "the grimy spell of the nocturnal town"." (Etchings and Dry Points from 1902 to 1924 by James McBey, P.& D. Colnaghi & Co., 1925, page x). It is clear from this description that Hardie was commenting upon one of the rare first state proofs as this nocturnal effect was removed after these two trial proofs had been pulled.

Wonderful, atmospheric impression printed on specially tinted blue toned antique paper laid paper, watermarked J W Pouncy & Son 1815, with full margins and deckle edge. The sheet has apparently been taken from an old volume and then tinted blue to enhance the night-time effect of this image. The intensity of the blue tone is greater in the outer margins of the sheet, where the paper has been covered by the mount. Evidence of previous mounting at extreme left and right outer edges of sheet, otherwise very good original condition. Image surface excellent.

This item is accompanied by the original frame backboard with the label of Aitken Dott & Son of 26 South Castle Street, Edinburgh.