Monday, January 25, 2016

Visual Storytelling: THE POWER OF PRINTS: Review by Polly Guerin

Mary Cassatt, The Letter, 1890-91. 
Why do prints matter? Before radio or television they were entertainment in the home and provided visual storytelling through the works of great artists. Rembrandt van Rijn, Albrecht Durer, Honore Daumier, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Henri deToulouse-Lautrec, Edward Hopper, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt and many others are just a few of the artists whose works are represented in prints. 
Image: Mary Cassatt, The Letter, 1890-91, Gift of Paul J. Sachs, 1916.
     You may rightfully wonder. Why did these artists embrace the print medium? It is interesting to note that reproducing paintings as prints meant that for some artists, they made more money selling the rights to reproduce their work than from their original creation. 
     To celebrate the centennial of its renowned collection of works of art on paper---one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world---The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents THE POWER OF PRINTS: The legacy of William M. Ivins (1881-1961)and his protege A. Hyatt Mayor (1901-1980), which opens tomorrow, January 26 in Galleries 691-693.  The exhibit end date: May 22, 2016.
The Power of Prints is organized by Freyda Spira, Associate Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Drawings and Prints.
    These two visionaries recognized the potential of prints and founded the now vast-collection that includes every kind of printed material--from old master engravings of great rarity to popular prints that were mass produced and intended to last. Like the collection from which they are drawn, the exhibition combines compelling examples of the esoteric and the everyday.  

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, A Giant Seated
The remarkable collection of etchings and engravings cover a vast knowledge of diverse subjects, Soon after founding the Department of Prints, and soon after assuming that position in 1916, William M. Ivins said, Prints "throw open to their student with the most complete abandon the whole gamut of human life and endeavor, from the most ephemeral of courtesies to the loftiest pictorial presentation of man's spiritual aspirations." 

      By drawing on the department's own vast holdings, the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue reveal how, from the very beginning, Ivins and Mayor artfully composed the print collection to be like a library-a corpus of works (not all distinctly masterful) that describes in the comprehensive way humanity's aspirations. Image: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, A Giant Seated in a landscape, sometimes called 'The Colossus,' by 1818. A Harris Brisbane Dick fund, 1935.    
     In the age of digital photography and the Internet, the power of prints, or the ability to disseminate images in identical form to a mass market, has special relevance to how people, see, understand, and engage with works of art.  The exhibition is accompanied by a full illustrated catalogue written by Freyda Spira, Associate Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints with Peter Parshall, former head of the department of old master prints at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C   The catalogue explores the lives and careers of Ivins and Mayor and the informed and diligent acquisition of prints, photographs, and illustrated books for the Metropolitan Museum. Additional information and accompanying programs are available on the Museum's website as well as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #PowerofPrints.

Ta Ta Darlings!!! Prints matter, they open a window into historical and contemporary works of many of the world's great artists and print makers, and well worth a visit. Fan mail is always welcome, contact Polly at  Visit Polly's Blogs on and in the right-hand column click on the Blog link that resonates with your interest. 

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