Paper Museums: The Reproductive Print in Europe, 1500-1800
February 3 – May 15, 2005
Willem Swanenburgh, Supper at Emmaus (after Peter Paul Rubens), 1611, Engraving on cream laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, Paul and Miriam Fund for Acquisitions, 2003.84.
As relatively inexpensive, transportable, and storable objects, prints had an important place in the culture of Renaissance and Baroque Europe. Well before the era of photography and digital images, a variety of print techniques revolutionized the ways in which images could be reproduced and circulated.
Reproductive prints—prints that reproduce other works of art—allowed a much broader public to become familiar with paintings, sculptures, and other works that had previously been available only to wealthy travelers or collectors.
This exhibition looked at the impact of this expanding visual culture in helping printmakers earn reputations for truthfulness, promoting certain artists and collectors, and increasing familiarity with original works of art. Including prints by or after Dürer, Claude Lorrain, Raphael, Watteau, and J.M.W. Turner, among many other artists, the exhibition also highlighted recent Smart acquisitions, such as an engraving of Michelangelo's Last Judgment and two versions of Rubens' Supper at Emmaus.
Far from being "merely" reproductive, these prints are themselves objects of exquisite beauty.
The exhibition catalogue offers an important interpretive survey of the reproductive print in Europe. The contributors to the volume explore the diverse range of uses for reproductive prints and the volume also analyzes issues such as the culture of the print workshop and, in particular, the status of female printmakers; truth and authenticity ascribed to the printed form; and the dissemination of antique forms through prints.
Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, September 13 – December 3, 2005