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Kerr Eby (1889–1946) was born in Tokyo to Canadian missionary parents who brought their family back home a few years after his birth. Eby left Canada for New York City in 1907 and studied art at the Pratt Institute and later at the Art Students League there. He spent several summers (from 1913 to 1917) at the artist colony in Cos Cob, Connecticut. His specialty was draftsmanship, including not only drawing but also etching and lithography, and he was recognized as a master printmaker. His friend, artist John Taylor Arms (1887–1953), whose own printmaking abilities are often considered to be unsurpassed, cited Eby for his technical versatility and brilliance, claiming that his works were “some of the finest prints and drawings produced by an American artist.” The American Impressionist artist Childe Hassam (1859–1935), who turned to etching in 1915, was guided by the younger Eby in mastering the medium. (Both Arms and Hassam are also represented in the Hillstrom Collection.)

Eby’s maternal uncle was Frederick Keppel Sr., a leading and influential art dealer in New York at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries who had played a key role in introducing prints as a fine art form to America. The Keppel Gallery, not surprisingly, assisted Eby in his career. In addition to this encouragement and support that Eby received for his printmaking, his early work experience was also important for his development as an artist. In his youth in Canada, he worked for a newspaper as a “printer’s devil” (a young apprentice in a printing establishment who handled printing type and was called a “devil” because of generally being covered with black printing ink), and he later held a position at the American Lithographic Company, experiences that attuned him to the printing process.

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