Release Date: October 12, 2007
Exceptional Baroque Woodcuts on View October 28, 2007 through March 30, 2008
Washington, DC—The last flowering of the woodcut in its classic form will be revealed in The Baroque Woodcut, an exhibition of approximately 80 prints and illustrated books on view at the National Gallery of Art, October 28, 2007, through March 30, 2008, in the West Building prints and drawings galleries. Woodcuts achieved a final triumph in the baroque era when painters of outstanding caliber, such as Peter Paul Rubens and Guido Reni, chose it as a dramatic means for expressing the energy and refinement of their draftsmanship.
“This remarkable and intensely creative period contributed a magnificent and innovative chapter to the history of European printmaking,” said Earl A. Powell, director, National Gallery of Art. “The exhibition presents some of the most breathtaking examples of woodcut from this era.”
Among the most extraordinary of the woodcuts in the exhibition, those by Domenico Beccafumi, Giuseppe Scolari, and Jan Lievens, are all very likely conceived and executed by the artists themselves. However, most baroque woodcuts resulted from close collaboration between a painter and a master block cutter. The Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, for example, worked with Christoffel Jegher, and the Bolognese artist Guido Reni worked with Bartolomeo Coriolano. The best of these alliances were not always a matter of a fine craftsman faithfully executing an artist’s design, but just as often they reflected the joint realization of an aesthetic idea.
In addition to Rubens, Reni, and their Renaissance predecessors, including Albrecht Dürer, Titian, and Hendrik Goltzius, the exhibition will include works by or after Andrea Andreani, Luca Cambiaso, Jost Amman, Christoph Murer, Andrea Schiavone, Anthonis Sallaert, Wilhelm Traut, Paulus Moreelse, Werner van den Valckert, and Dirk de Bray.
The Woodcut Medium
Woodcut is the earliest known method for replicating images on paper, and by the Renaissance it had reached an unparalleled degree of technical and aesthetic sophistication. The baroque woodcut developed a rich and diversified language of its own, demonstrated in examples ranging from intimate book illustration to elaborate narrative cycles and allegories and from single sheets to monumental friezes suited to mural decoration, all of which will be on display in this exhibition.
A woodcut is made by cutting a design in relief on the surface of a plank, a process that leaves a network of raised lines to be inked and printed with a press. This technique meant that the baroque preferences for painterly brushwork, lavish color, and subtle atmospheric tonality were all but impossible to recreate. Nonetheless, between 1580 and 1650, artists recognized the continuing potential of the woodcut as a vital artistic medium in its own right. Because woodcuts permit flexibility in scale and images can be reproduced quickly, the medium served as a highly effective way to disseminate works of art to a wider public.
Exhibition Sponsorship and Organization
The exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the Thaw Charitable Trust. It has been organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Curator and Related Activities
The exhibition curator is Peter Parshall, head of the old master prints department. Parshall was also curator of the 2005 exhibition, Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public.
Gallery talks will be held on October 30, 31, and November 9, 14, 19 at noon, and on November 28 at 2 p.m., starting in the West Building Rotunda.
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