Laguna Veneta


James McBey (1883-1959), Laguna Veneta, 1926, etching, signed in ink bottom right and inscribed “Trial proof IX” bottom left margins. Reference: Hardie 227. One of 11 trial proofs before the edition of 80. In very good condition, with margins (slight mat staining upper margin well above plate line, trimmed irregularly bottom with a loss away from image). On fine laid paper with an elaborate initials (IHS?) watermark. Archival mounting. 7 x 15, the sheet 9 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches.

A fine impression, with plate tone especially toward the left in the water and sky, printed in a dark brown ink.

This is one of the 5 trial proofs used to test the different effects of printing. Here, the plate tone is used to create a brilliant lighting of the sky at the right. The skyline of Venice is shown mistily on the horizon, in the morning sun. McBey added his signature in the plate later for the edition.

McBey’s Venice plates were issued at the height of his career, at a point when his prints were commanding the highest prices in the history of the medium. Noted McBey commentator Robin Garton has written that McBey’s Venice prints are “one of the greatest achievements in twentieth century British printmaking,” and “the high point of his career, images of passion and energy, full of fascination in the subjects and the process of creating them.”