Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Woodcuts on a Grand Scale to Visit PMA Next Year

Albrecht Dürer and other canonical printers will never lose their relevance and art historical importance, so here is yet another blog about yet another exhibit that features those incredible mid-millennium printers who defined the artform for us. The exhibit, Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian, is coming to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) in February 2009, after traveling to both Wellesley and Yale College galleries.

The exhibit will feature monumental-sized (for their time) prints: rare products of European masters testing and pushing the limits of the recently invented printing press. These were printed at a time when the limitations of a print (which were dictated by the paper size that the press could run) were in tension with the print-makers’ desire to compete with painters and sculptors by making art on a similar scale. As a result, these are ambitious, experimental, and both technically (most are woodblock, but there are also etchings and engravings) and formally fascinating pieces that are seldom exhibited in public.

The following excerpt from a Greg Cook review of the show hints at the visual power wielded by these works:

"You have to see them in person to really get it. In reproduction, Jacopo de' Barbari's 1500 bird's-eye "View of Venice" is a tight maze of buildings, ships, streets, and canals. But in the gallery, the vista opens up to about 9 feet wide. The point of view feels more godlike than birdlike in its all-seeing, all-knowing vision. You understand why the marvelous woodcut - assembled from six unprecedentedly large carved wooden plates printed on six unprecedentedly large sheets of paper - was one of the first images to be protected by what we now call copyright."

The exhibit features work not only by Durer but also by Tintoretto, Botticelli, Mantegna, and Titian. Judging by the roster of artists and the selection of works, these prints will without a doubt impress themselves on our memories, and remind us once again how indebted we are to the old masters for foraging new territory for us.

Exhibit Catalogue Available from Amazon.com

Link to exhibition information: Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian


The exhibition is organized by the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, under the direction of Elizabeth Wyckoff, Assistant Director and Curator of Prints and Drawings.


Shelley Langdale • Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings
Larry Silver • Farquhar Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania


Berman and Stieglitz Galleries, ground floor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a great show. Don't miss it.

There are some great works and impressions in this show that, unless you work in a significant collection, you aren't going to see again.