Vera Berdich

Flying Dutchman, 1975

American, 1915–2003

This brooding surreal image was created with Berdich’s technique of working with a photo engraved copper plate, scraping away sections and adding new areas with an etched line. Berdich’s methods were groundbreaking. She developed new techniques in printmaking, combining historic methods with modern technology, and was one of the first artists in the U.S. to use photographic techniques in printmaking.

The Flying Dutchman is based on the nautical legend of a ghost ship that can never again make port but is seen in a ghostly glowing light and can send messages from people long dead. Berdich powerfully interprets this fantasy with images of a barely visible flying ship adrift among the clouds, a graveyard and a monumental figure of classical sculpture.

In the two states of this etching, both artist’s proofs, Berdich has hand-applied various colors of ink to achieve a one of a kind effect, believing that each print, like a painting, is its own unique work rather than a reproduction.

Berdich founded the etching program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is credited with training and inspiring generations of artists, including those artists later known as the Chicago Imagists. In 2010, the Prints and Drawing Department of the Art Institute of Chicago devoted an exhibition to the work of Vera Berdich and her most prominent students.

Illinois Arts Council Partners in Purchase Program, 1978