Of Arms And The Man

by Timothy Lusch

A Man At Arms

European Etchings Of John Taylor Arms

American etcher, John Taylor Arms (1887-1953), studied architecture and law before settling into a career as a graphic artist. Known primarily as an etcher of the Gothic Revival in art and architecture in the early 20th century, Arms reached the height of his power in a series of etchings of Gothic churches in Europe. He began by sketching a cathedral on paper and taking notes. Arms then spent hundreds, often thousands, of hours etching the image onto a copper plate with a fine tip sewing needle. He then made prints in ink (he occasionally used aquatint). Arms captured intricate details in each piece. The best way to view one of his prints is with a magnifying glass. You will have a new appreciation for his work.

Arms believed Gothic art and architecture united both form and faith. Ben Bassham said, “Arms believed art consisted of two elements–spiritual meaning and technique. He never doubted that the spiritual content was the most important…”

The image below is called In Memoriam. It is the north portal of Chartres Cathedral, “the most perfect part of the most perfect church in the world,” according to the artist. Arms etched the image in memory of his mother-in-law. I’d say he liked her very much.