Complete Set of Chicago Society of Etchers Presentation Prints (please click here to read full essay)
From it's inception in early 1910, the Chicago Society of Etchers had two primary missions to encourage the awareness of printmaking and to increase the appreciation do fine original prints. This had been attempted only once before, by the New York City Etching Club, founded in 1877. When the twenty charter members formed the CSE, the printmakers had little opportunity to exhibit their works and the CSE Annual Exhibitions became a main function of the organization.
Membership grew steadily over the years, and included “active members” who were the exhibiting artists and ‘associate members”, some of whom were also artists, but were mostly collectors and enthusiasts. For a $5.00 annual membership fee members received all the CSE publications, including an original print by one of the members, which was selected by a jury. The exhibitions were held at the Art Institute of Chicago, later at the Albert Roullier Galleries, and finally at the Findlay Galleries. In addition to the Presentation prints, finely bound books and brochures were also issued to members.
The first Presentation Print was issued in 1912 and the series continued annually (with a few exceptions) until 1956. Edition sizes varied from year to year, presumably to reflect the size of the membership, and it was always stated that no further proofs beyond the edition would be available. While many of the artists printed their own editions, some of the finest professional printers were also employed, such as Eugene Delatre, David Strang, Charles S. White and Frank Nankivell, and most often, Frederick T. Reynolds.
We assume that the artists chose their own papers and inks due to the great variety used;
Each print would then receive one of the two CSE blindstamps in the margin, bearing the logo of the society, an etching press.
Among all of the artists associated with the CSE, the name of Bertha E. Jacques will always occupy a place of importance. Jacques’ impressive oeuvre of 461 etchings and drypoints began with her first print in 1894 – at a time when few women were involved with etching. As one of the founding members of the CSE, Jacques was a driving force in the society, serving as its secretary-treasurer from 1912 to 1936, followed by her good friend James Swann from 1937 to 1947, and F. Leslie Thompson from 1948 to 1955.