Museum of Brisbane

A rare find for the Museum

IMAGE: The old gothic church 1937, artist: William Bustard, City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

Museum of Brisbane has an exciting new addition to its Collection thanks to the recent donation of some rare copper etching plates by Brisbane resident, John Hewson. These plates were created by the late William Bustard, artist featured in our new exhibition William Bustard: Painting with light.

On discovering these plates we noticed that one of them was of St Stephen’s Chapel (next to the Cathedral on Elizabeth Street) which we already have as a print edition in the Museum’s Collection. To reunite the original etching plate with one of its prints was very exciting for us, as it was common practice for artists to destroy the plates after having used them to create their limited edition of prints.

We are very grateful to John for donating these plates who inherited them from his father, Jack Hewson, a close friend of Bustard in the 1960s. Bustard asked that he never make another print and this request has since been honoured.

The process of using a copper plate to create an artwork is quite fascinating. To create the print, the artist first coats the plate with a ‘ground’—a waxy substance that resists acid. The artist then etches the image into this with a needle, exposing the copper. The plate is then bathed in acid, which eats away at the exposed copper, creating a deeper groove. Once this process is complete, the plate is coated with ink and the residue is wiped away, so the ink is settled only in the grooves. This is then pressed onto the paper. As a result, the final image is the reverse of the etching plate.