Like Jacques Callot and Hercules Segers, Norman Ackroyd’s primary identity is as an etcher. Copper and acid are his native media. He works in oil sometimes, in watercolor often; he has produced steel and bronze etched reliefs for buildings, recycling the beauties of the copper plate on a monumental scale. Occasionally he has made lithographs, color screenprints, monoprints or hand-colored etchings, though since about 1980 most of his work has taken the form of black and white landscape etchings.1
Yorkshire born, Ackroyd attended the Royal College of Art in the early 1960s and has since achieved eminence in the UK: he was elected to the Royal Academy in 1988 and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2007. Working steadily for the past 60 years, his output has been prodigious—the number of his autonomous etchings (not in books or sets) alone is approaching 700.2 His collectors range from the wealthy and socially prestigious to persons of ordinary means, and include many who hesitate to call themselves “collectors” as such—people who might never have collected art, or not as passionately, if they had not seen Ackroyd’s work. He has consistently resolved that his smaller prints should be widely affordable.3
- My deep thanks to the many people who have generously helped me with this essay: Jason and Nina Bacon, John Bell, Margo Dolan, Jane Glaubinger, Penny Hughes-Stanton, Karen Klein, Siobhan McIlvanney, Andrew McNeillie, Richard Murphy, Sheila Pehrson and Ron Rumford. I have known Norman Ackroyd for 35 years; I was given his work by my aunt, Martha Baur, and have purchased more myself. In 2006 I organized an exhibition, “Painting with Acid: the Prints of Norman Ackroyd, R.A.,” at the University of New Hampshire.
- Ackroyd’s edition sizes range from 20 to 150, with 90 as the standard. The archive of his sets of prints kept at Central St. Martin’s comprises some 500 objects: collections.arts.ac.uk/view/objects/asimages/People$004019.
- “Norman has always wanted his small etchings to be affordable,” Penny Hughes-Stanton, email to author, 31 Jan 2017.