Peter Milton is now accepted internationally as the foremost living exponent of etching, an artist whose career spanning over forty years exclusively devoted to this most demanding of media, has enlarged its possibilities so richly and variously that he now stands in this field in a league of his own.
Ever since the now legendary Daylilies established Peter Milton in 1975 as the new frontrunner and major force in etching, it has been apparent that each new print, as with each series, takes forward the artist's continuing concerns and preoccupations - with the experience of childhood and the passage to maturity, with history and literature in many aspects, most of all with the processes of memory. While the range of reference is profoundly stimulating in its own right, it is this movement forward - the links connecting each work with the others - that matters. 'Details of narrative', Milton comments, 'are simply by-ways, signposts and way-stations… it is the search that is the subject'.
Each new series looks at questions raised by the previous one. Starting off with a relatively intimate image in Mary's Turn, Points of Departure moves on with Nijinsky Variations and Twentieth Century Limited to rich compositions on a panoramic scale. Nijinsky Variations treats the career of the dancer along with the early history of the Ballets Russes, while in Twentieth Century Limited the now vanished Pennsylvania Grand Station provides a powerful metaphor for the processes of destruction and salvage with the de-railing of the great locomotive which releases an immeasurable harvest that is the century's art. Pavane, set in the Luxembourg Gardens of Paris, concludes the series on a more elegiac note.
In Hidden Cities, spaces that are imaginary, constructed out of disparate fragments, have been welded together, stretched, multiplied (in sometimes surreal ways), replacing the historic spaces that lay behind Points of Departure. In the first of these, Hidden Cities I: The Ministry, real figures, some repeated in different postures - James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Sylvia Beach - invade the stage. In succeeding images such characters retreat and the space they inhabit becomes the subject, though their input may continue to haunt it. In Continuum there is another, vast swarm of figures but mostly these withdraw into anonymity while the architecture makes the major statement.
Milton has stated that the thrust of his work is unashamedly introspective, arising from the need to examine and understand the evolution of his own imagery, an objective, eclectic at heart, which he may be said to share with the major exponents of modernism in its literary forms, Proust and Joyce. In the ongoing threat to gravity, expressed through a fondness for balloons and other flying objects, in the discontinuities and visual puns, the occasional erotic subtext, there is a playful, subversive, sometimes surreal quality in Milton's work that is new to the world of etching.
Born Pennsylvania 1930 and educated Yale School of Art and Architecture under Josef Albers. Since the early 1960s Milton has specialised exclusively in the medium of etching, rapidly establishing an international reputation as a master of the black and white image, whose technical virtuosity in etching and engraving is matched by a haunting originality of imagery. His 1971 Jolly Corner suite drew comparisons from reviewers to such historic projects as Piranesi's Carceri or Goya's Caprichos. In the 1970s and early 1980s Milton went on to produce an increasingly ambitious body of larger-scale etchings in which his earlier landscape orientation was replaced by complex compositions linking figures with elements of architecture.
Milton has held some 85 one-man exhibitions in the USA, England, France, Australia and Japan including Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (1965); The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington (1972) and The Brooklyn Museum, New York (1980). He has been represented by Francis Kyle Gallery since 1979 with exhibitions in 1980, 1988, 1991, 1994 and 2006. During this period he has participated in over 200 group exhibitions from the Rijksacademie, Amsterdam to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
He is the recipient of over 50 awards including Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) Award (1967); Medal of Honour, International Print Exhibition, Lvov, USSR (1990) and Awards Exequo of the Triennial, International Triennial of Graphic Arts, Poland (numerous years). His work is represented in over 100 collections, including Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum, New York; National Gallery of Art, National Collection of Fine Arts, Library of Congress, and Philips Collection, Washington DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate Gallery and British Museum, London.
Peter Milton/Complete Etchings 1960-1976
Ed Kneeland Mcnulty (Impressions Workshop, Boston, 1977)
The Primacy of Touch: The Drawings of Peter Milton/A Catalogue Raisonée
Introduction by Rosellen Brown (Hudson Hills Press, New York, 1994)
Peter Milton: Complete Prints 1960-1996
Introduction by Robert Flynn Johnson, text by Peter Milton (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996)
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