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  John Taylor Arms. "Light and Shade, Taxco," 1946.  
Albro Dona Rosa
An Etching Masterwork by John Taylor Arms

John Taylor Arms. "Light and Shade, Taxco," 1946. Etching. Image size: 10 1/2 x 13 1/2". Artist’s notation in pencil: “II,” in l. l. margin, indicating the preferred second state with an edition of 185, printed by the British master printer David Strang. Signed and dated in pencil, l. r.: John Taylor Arms, 1946. Fine.

John Taylor Arms (1887–1953) is a major figure in the history of twentieth-century printmaking. Trained as an architect, he eventually turned his love of buildings and draughtsmanship to a mastery of the etching medium. Arms's attention to detail and his genius for capturing the effects of light and shadow first came together in painstaking etchings of the cathedrals of France. In these prints, he strived to express their essential spirit, or in his own words, "all that was most beautiful in man-made building—grandeur of scale, beauty of proportion and abundant wealth of detail." An intensely spiritual man, the artist understood this beauty as an expression of divine creativity. Arms was also known as an important and indefatigable spokesman for printmaking, and his legacy includes his own impressive body of work as well as the work of the almost countless printmakers of the modernist era whose work he influenced and patronized.

Light and Shade, Taxco is one of Arms's most integrated large compositions. A tour-de-force of etching, the print won ten prizes and is listed as one of the artist's master plates. The print summarizes Arms’s primary themes—the fugitive play of light and dark, the intricate structure of both sacred and secular architectural space, and the solemn dignity of the creations of man through time. Every architectural detail of the Taxco, the important early-twentieth-century Mexican center of modernism, is exquisitely rendered.

Arms was a perfectionist in every phase of his printmaking. This beautiful print is from the artist's preferred second state, and there is no better print in which to study the astonishing range of his technical ability as well as his sensitivity to the special combination of past and present that marks Mexico's ancient cities. A remarkable example of this masterpiece by arguably the most influential American etcher of the last century.

Ref.: William Dolan Fletcher, John Taylor Arms: A Man for All Time, The Artist and His Work (New Haven: Sign of the Arrow, 1982), no. 394.

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot