This installation shines a spotlight on a printmaker whose lifetime achievements have been underappreciated in the years since his death. Born in the industrial heart of England, Short initially trained as a civil engineer. While working on a government inquiry into the pollution of the Thames River, he encountered a print by J. M. W. Turner, which proved transformative. Soon after, Short gave into “temptation,” as he called it, deciding to pursue a career in printmaking.

Absorbed into the burgeoning Etching Revival movement led in England by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Sir Francis Seymour Haden, Short used his engineering mindset to experiment until he mastered every secret of etching. A reverence and desire to absorb the artistic lessons from the great artists of the past compelled Short to learn the historic traditions of mezzotint and aquatint. These techniques were made synonymous in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with the printed reproductions of oil paintings and watercolors.

Eager to provide quality alternatives to the anemic mass produced reproductions of the times, Short employed his formidable talents into creating magnificent and sympathetic interpretations of works by other artists—especially Turner. Compositional and iconographic lessons absorbed from these reproductions manifest in his original prints. However, unlike artists who were comfortable constructing compositions in the studio, Short went out into nature, seeking out vistas that inspired him.

Sir Frank Short: Out of the Shadows assembles over two dozen printmaking experiments, original compositions, and reproductive works that are drawn from the Frank Raysor collection, a generous ongoing gift to VMFA. This exhibition is curated by Dr. Colleen Yarger, Assistant Curator for European Art and the Mellon Collections, and supported by Ms. Anna Kay Chandler, Larry J. Kohmescher, and an anonymous donor.

A Wintry Blast on the Stourbridge Canal, 1890, Sir Frank Short (English, 1857–1945), drypoint printed in blank ink on laid paper. Promised gift of Frank Raysor, FR.1233
Dawn, Sir Frank Short (English, 1857–1945), Dawn, 1912, Aquatint printed in black ink on wove paper. Promised gift of Frank Raysor, FR.1169