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To Instruct and Delight: Nineteenth-Century Periodicals

May 2, 2005–January 13, 2006
East Building, Ground Floor, Study Center

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.


original exhibition poster
click to enlarge

Overview: As the Industrial Revolution transformed Europe and North America in the 19th century, the illustrated periodical rose to a place of prominence. The forces that joined to make illustrated periodicals a widespread publishing phenomenon were various and were also emblematic of the century. Newly created railroad networks and national postal systems facilitated the distribution of journals whose manufacturing costs had been lessened by the mechanization of printing, collating, binding, and ink- and paper-making. Developments in lithographic, wood- and steel-engraved, and photographic illustration made possible the mass production of vivid images that captured the imaginations of a growing number of educated, middle-class readers.

            Their readership having extended far beyond an earlier, academic market, journals illustrated with images of the fine arts had, by the end of the 19th century, become essential to the spread of avant-garde as well as historicizing design. In addition, they proved to be potent vectors for new movements in literature, poetry, and art criticism, as well as being sources of practical instruction in the arts and crafts. Viewed collectively, illustrated periodicals epitomized many of the innovations and achievements that defined the visual culture of the 19th century.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art. Ted Dalziel, librarian for interlibrary loan, was curator.