Agathe, Elspeth, Hebe and Loretta

by Richard Wathen, 2009

A series of 4 colour etchings with hand-colouring.
Edition of 10. Each print signed by the artist and numbered on the reverse

Wathen enjoyed the experience of working in etching, so, concurrently with Brood, he started working on a group of four smaller etchings. These were directly based on paintings, all of girls holding a rabbit and dressed in costume of an earlier era. Wathen used drawings and photographs of the paintings and again drew the figures directly onto the plates. His technical dexterity as an etcher, acquired whilst working with Paupers, comes to the fore in these prints of modest scale. Only a single plate, soft-ground with aquatint, was used to print both figure and background texture. The etchings were editioned by Simon Marsh at Paupers Press and printed in black and white only. Each set was later hand-coloured by Wathen using watercolour. Wathen also specified a different framing colour for each print.

The eponymous paintings of Agathe, Elspeth, Hebe and Loretta were all over one metre tall. For the etchings Wathen has reduced the figures dramatically and they are shown in reverse, due to the etching process, by which the image when printed is flipped by 180°. Confronting us with four of his mysterious figures in a group, on such an intimate scale, triggers a different viewing experience compared with looking at a single painting. Questions of commonality arise. What do these girls have in common? Why are they each holding a rabbit? Wathen takes an aesthetic interest in rabbits, they are fluffy animals and it requires skill to render their fur. He also likes the ambiguity that their inclusion causes, and employs them as strategic device rather than the proverbial symbol of fecundity. The sense of ambiguity is also reflected in the way that Wathen labels his works, often choosing names that are not exclusive to one gender or out of use. For Wathen, finding a title to a work is similar to naming a child or a character in a movie and requires careful consideration. Opting for names which often lack identifying features with regards to gender, age and place, adds to the puzzling sense of uncertainty that makes Wathen’s images so appealing and intriguing. 

  • Agathe47.5 x 39.2 cm (18 11/16 x 15 7/16 in)
  • Elspeth47.5 x 39.2 cm (18 11/16 x 15 7/16 in)
  • Hebe47.5 x 39.2 cm (18 11/16 x 15 7/16 in)
  • Loretta47.5 x 39.2 cm (18 11/16 x 15 7/16 in)