The rhetoric of working from nature was crucial to the redefinition of etching in the 1860s, not merely because of the way that it validated a personal response to landscape and a sketch aesthetic but also in the status which it created for etching as an artist's medium by distancing it from its recent history of use in book illustration and the reproduction of drawings. This was reflected not only in the work of individual etchers but also in the etching criticism of the 1860s and 1870s, discussed in Chapter 1, where claims for a new and higher status for the art not only rested on the assertion that the freedom and directness of the etching process was ideally suited for the communication of ideas but also emphasized the authentic experience produced for both artist and viewer by the direct recording of landscape subjects in the form of etched sketches made on the spot. An emphasis on first-hand observation was partly derived from the aesthetics of naturalism but was also linked to the rise of the sketch in France in the nineteenth century. 1 However, the rhetoric of the sketch was not solely based on work from nature. It also espoused the notion that greater artistic creativity was visible in the spontaneous work signalled by an incomplete finish. By adopting the idea of the sketch as both direct and spontaneous work, etchers at this period evolved a distinct aesthetic for the art, based on a sparse linearity which signalled the spontaneity of work executed directly from nature. 2