Chicago native Morris Henry Hobbs made his first etching in 1926 (when he was 34) while supporting himself as an architect. He quickly grew proficient in printmaking and began exhibiting his work nationally alongside such prominent artists as John Taylor Arms, Thomas Hart Benton, Alfred Hutty, Rockwell Kent, Beatrice S. Levy, and many others. In 1936 and 1938 he was honored with solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian.
A road trip to New Orleans in 1938 changed Hobbs’s life. He fell in love with that city and moved there permanently the next year, establishing a studio on Toulouse Street. He gained wide critical praise for a long series of etchings that depicted the famous buildings and back alleys of the Vieux Carré (the old French Quarter) ~ and his work is still revered by collectors today.
Hobbs died in 1967 in New Orleans. His art is in many museum and library collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of American History, the Library of Congress, the Georgetown University Library print collection, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the Newcomb Museum at Tulane University, and many others. The Morris Henry Hobbs Papers are in the Archives of American Art, and a catalogue raisonné of his etchings was published in 2017.
Although best known as an etcher, Hobbs also worked in pencil, watercolor, and oil. His print-making techniques varied from intaglio to drypoint, aquatint, lithography, and engraving.
The intaglio etching technique generally involves incising an image on a copper plate, inking the plate so that the ink fills only the incised lines, placing a sheet of fine drawing paper on the plate, and sending it through a hand-cranked press. The pressure transfers the incised drawing to the paper and leaves a distinctive indentation along the edges of the image. Thus, each print is an original work of art and no two prints are exactly alike.
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