Watching the People Below, Amiens Cathedral by John Taylor Arms

Watching the People Below, Amiens Cathedral by John Taylor Arms

Watching the People Below, Amiens Cathedral

John Taylor Arms

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Watching the People Below, Amiens Cathedral

1921 / printed in 1937 
Image Size
4 7/8 x 8 1/8" platemark 
pencil, lower right 
Edition Size
pencil dated 1921 after the signature; also inscribed I in the lower left and SP in margin near sheet edge 
Fletcher 102, Gargoyle Series #3; Arms 103; LOC 520 and illustrated on page 34 
antique-white wove Arnold with partial watermark 1934 UNBLEACHED ARNO 
Inventory ID

Construction of Amiens Cathedral began in 1220 and the building continued through a succession of bishops to be completed in 1288. It is a Gothic masterpiece that displays a consistent architectural style that is rarely seen in other French cathedrals. Today the cathedral Notre-Dame d'Amiens remains the loftiest and tallest building of Picardy and has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1981.

Amiens Cathedral has numerous gargoyles at the top parts of the cathedral. These are elongated, horizontal creatures that were designed as conduits to drain water from the roofs and project the falling water away from the sides of the building. The chimeras which are found on the buttresses have no function other than to protect the church from evil spirits. They are grotesque, frightening, and fanciful statues that are perched on mounts and were created by artisans that were given free rein. These chimera, also called Grotesques, are ornamental and some believe they were place on cathedrals to ward off evil spirits. They are often located above gargoyles. In "Watching the People Below," the winged, long-necked chimera guards from his perch looking past three horizontal gargoyles.

The UNESCO website offers this description of Amiens cathedral: Located in the Hauts-de-France region, in the Department of the Somme, Amiens Cathedral is one of the largest churches in France and one of the most complete 13th century Gothic churches. The rigorous coherence of its plan, with the perfect symmetry of the nave and choir on either side of the transept, the beauty of its three-tier interior elevation, the audacious lightness of its structure that marks a new stage towards the conquest of luminosity, the wealth of its sculpted decoration and its stained glass makes it one of the most remarkable examples of medieval architecture.

John Taylor Arms, printmaker, lecturer, illustrator, and administrator, was born in Washington, D.C. on 19 April 1887. He first studied law at Princeton University but transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture, earning a Master's Degree in 1912. He studied with Ross Turner, David A. Gregg, and Felton Brown. For five years after his graduation Arms worked for the architectural firm Carrere and Hastings, before establishing his own architectural firm of which he was a partner.

A gift of an etching kit from his wife, Dorothy, changed the course of his life. He produced his first etching in 1915 and he eventually produced 441 prints, mostly etchings. Arms became one of the most famous printmakers of the first half of the twentieth century. He is mostly noted for his etchings of medieval architecture but early subjects also included ships, sailboats, airplanes, rural landscapes, and the streets, buildings, and bridges of New York.

Arms' exhibition history was lengthy beginning in 1927 and continuing to 1952. He authored 'Hand-Book of Print Making and Print Makers' in 1934 and illustrated 'Churches of France' and 'Hill Towns and Cities of Northern Italy' by his wife, Dorothy Noyes Arms. His work can be found in most major collections of American prints.

Arms was an activist for printmaking and assisted in assembling exhibitions of American graphic art that were shown in Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Rome; he was editor of the Print Department of Print, A Quarterly Journal of the Graphic Arts, and he lectured on the techniques, history and value of original prints. Arms also served as the president of the Tiffany Foundation in 1940. John Taylor Arms died in New York City on 15 October 1953.


Please call us at 707-546-7352 or email to purchase this item.