I turn into Scrooge this time of year. To combat my Santa Claus anxiety, otherwise known as Claustrophobia, my daughter broke out that timeless movie classic “Miracle on 34th Street”, guaranteed to melt the hearts of all but the most hardened Scrooges. Character Fred Gailey’s comment to cynical parade director Doris Walker, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to” struck a chord with me. I couldn’t help but draw a comparison between the movie and my search for Hubert. I know it’s somewhat of a stretch but in my Hubert addled brain this line resonates with me because I do have faith that somehow I will find Hubert even though the odds are stacked against me.
I did receive an early Christmas gift that lifted my poor holiday spirit considerably – a response to my email inquiry from the Musee d’Orsay! Their research department found 4 painters named Hubert in their files and requested photos of some of my Hubert etchings to see if they match up. I immediately sent off some examples for them to examine and am anxiously awaiting their reply. I might, however, have to wait a bit longer. As mentioned previously, I appear to have a lifelong history of poor timing. Apparently this problem of mine is chronic since I just heard the news that a strike by French museum workers to protest plans by the culture ministry to cut the civil service by replacing only half of all retiring employees has shut down many of Paris’s museums and monuments. And yes, the Musee d’Orsay is one of the museums affected. Hopefully, for all involved, the issues will be resolved soon.
Meantime, I’ve been learning about the various steps involved in creating an etching. The book ‘Making an Etching’ by Levon West describes the procedure as “etching is a process whereby a polished metal plate is covered with an acid-resistant ground, into which a design is drawn with a needle that exposes, but does not penetrate, the metal. Acid is the introduced to bite the design into the plate. Finally, ink is forced into the bitten lines which, under pressure, will yield an impression on paper. The print so produced is known as an etching.” Wow. I have even more respect and admiration for Hubert. My patience runs thin when I have to wait at a long traffic light – I cannot begin to imagine how time consuming producing all of those intricate etchings must have been for Hubert.
According to West, the etcher “is undertaking a task that will give him no rest. Etching is not merely the act of putting down an idea on copper instead of wood or canvas. Nor is it as simple as making a drawing on paper. The art of etching is the successful coordination of several qualities, some of which are not classed as ‘artistic’. A good etcher must be, above everything else, a good craftsman.” It sounds like there is an awful lot going on in order to create an etching. For someone who cannot pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time I am extremely in awe of this immensely talented, almost mythical artist named Hubert. And extremely perplexed as to how and why he is still a mystery. But, in the words of Kris Kringle from “Miracle on 34th Street”, “… not only IS there such a person, but here I am to prove it.” I believe, I believe, I believe….