Jim Dine, Piranesi's 24 Colored Marks, an etching with watercolour

United States of America, AD 1974-76

'Autobiography through objects'

From early in his career Jim Dine (born 1935) has introduced commonplace objects as stand-ins for himself. During the 1960s and early 1970s the notion of an 'autobiography through objects' largely governed his choice of subject matter, such as the bathrobe and the heart. In this etching, a row of tools takes on a range of personal and historical associations. Many of these objects are the etching tools which Dine uses in his studio. They refer to his own practice as a printmaker as well to the practice of etching in the past. The reference in the title to Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) is made with ironic humour as this eighteenth-century Italian etcher specialized exclusively in black-and-white etching. Dine's use of tools has other autobiographical associations: both his father and grandfather ran a hardware store which sold tools and painting and plumbing supplies in Cincinnati where he grew up.

The tools are a recurring element in Dine's iconography. The plate for this composition was first used in a print of 1973, The Wrench in Nature, which showed the large single wrench (shown here in the centre). More tools were added in three subsequent prints between 1974 and 1976: Dartmouth Still Life, Pink Chinese Scissors and this work. The rich variety of textures and techniques used to render these tools endows them with what Dine has called 'a vocabulary of feelings'.

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Jim Dine, Piranesi's 24 Colored Marks, an etching with watercolour

© 2000 Jim Dine


More information


F. Carey and A. Griffiths, American prints 1879-1979 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)


Height: 657.000 mm
Width: 604.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1979-10-6-17



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