Release Date: October 16, 2000
Phenomenal Surge in Printmaking Explored in Prints Abound: Paris in the 1890s From the Collections of Virginia and Ira Jackson and The National Gallery of Art On View 22 October 2000 - 25 February 2001
Washington, DC–Prints Abound: Paris in the 1890s From the Collections of Virginia and Ira Jackson and the National Gallery of Art – on view in the East Building of the National Gallery from 22 October 2000, through 25 February 2001 – celebrates a decade of printmaking with more than 110 original prints for posters, journals, portfolios, illustrated books, music primers, and song sheets, as well as a magnificent decorative screen. Executed by some of the best-known artists of the day, including Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Paul Signac, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Félix Vallotton, and Èdouard Vuillard, the works in the exhibition capture the extraordinary energy and creativity these artists enjoyed as they seized upon new and diverse forums for their art.
"Prints Abound celebrates an extraordinary gift and promise of nearly eight hundred remarkable prints, drawings, watercolors, and illustrated books to the National Gallery from Virginia and Ira Jackson, a selection of which is on view in this exhibition," said Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art. "The Jackson's collection of works by late nineteenth-century French artists, particularly Pierre Bonnard and his Nabi colleagues, adds exceptional strength and refinement to the Gallery's strong holdings of French art."
In Paris during the last decade of the nineteenth century, many artists sought new outlets for their work and turned to printmaking, especially color lithography, to explore fresh approaches and access to a wider audience. They turned their attention to designs for posters, such as Bonnard's promotion for France-Champagne, illustrations for books, journals, and ephemeral publications that included sheet music, theater programs, menus, and even birth announcements. Collaboration between the arts was on the rise and interaction between visual artists, print publishers, writers, musicians, and entertainers fostered a climate of openness and cross-fertilization, helping to define one of the most dynamic periods in the graphic arts.
Scheduled to coincide with the National Gallery's highly acclaimed exhibition Art Nouveau, 1890-1914, on view in the East Building through 28 January 2001, Prints Abound is a particularly fitting complement as it shares many of the same artists and subjects.
The exhibition casts a spotlight on the achievements of Bonnard, whose work is represented in depth. Bonnard's original color prints for portfolios, journals, posters, and illustrated books, as well as a magnificent color lithographic folding screen of a fashionable street scene are on view in the exhibition.
Periodicals and Posters
Prints Abound opens with a display of posters and illustrated periodicals. In addition to commissioning posters as advertising, literary and artistic journals hired avant-garde artists to make original prints as illustrations or as separate bonuses to subscribers. Several publishing organizations even sponsored exhibitions of prints on their premises; thereby, offering inventive artists a multitude of challenging new outlets for expression.
Posters had their greatest influence in the public realm, where they became the "visual signature of the epoch." Examples in the exhibition include Bonnard's promotions for France-Champagne (1891), La Revue blanche (1894), and Le Figaro (1903). Advertising, which helped create broader markets, was a new development in a burgeoning capitalist economy; and Paris, at the time, was a center for avant-garde artists, many of whom sought the income and recognition that poster commissions would bring.
Multi-artist and Single Artist albums
Lively interest in the artist's print spurred the production of numerous albums or portfolios in the 1890s. These collections of prints took various forms. Many albums focused on prints by a single artist or theme, while others contained prints by several artists. Viewed as a whole, these albums offer a sweeping overview of French printmaking at the close of the nineteenth century.
Selections from four of the most important multi-artist albums of the period will be on view: L'Estampe originale (The Original Print), a series published by André Marty that reflects the influence of Japanese aesthetics and art nouveau design; a deluxe edition of L'Epreuve (The Proof) that features multiple proof impressions printed in diverse colors on a variety of papers; and Album des peintres-graveurs (Album of Painter-Printmakers) and Album d'estampes originales de la Galeries Vollard (Album of Prints from the Vollard Gallery), published by the celebrated dealer Ambroise Vollard. Vollard was a key promoter of color lithography and along with such artists as Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Vuillard, and Signac, he even enticed renowned painters such as Paul Cézanne and Edvard Munch to try their hand at the medium.
Selected works on display from single-artist albums include Bonnard's Quelques Aspects de la vie de Paris (Some Scenes of Parisian Life), Gauguin's Dix zincographies (Ten Zincographs), Toulouse-Lautrec's Elles, Vallotton's Paris intense, and Vuillard's Paysages et intérieurs (Landscapes and Interiors). Toulouse-Lautrec's fabulous Yvette Guilbert, an album written and illustrated as a testament to Mademoiselle Guilbert, the popular singer and cabaret artist is also on view.
Illustrated Books and Ephemera
The exhibition concludes with an abundance of illustrated books and printed ephemera. The 1890s saw a proliferation of superb and innovative artist-illustrated books, many of which will be on view, including four outstanding examples of Bonnard's designs for Paul Verlaine's Parallèlement. Neither time nor expense was spared on the sumptuous illustrations and type for Parallèlement, and the result was groundbreaking. In contrast to traditional book illustration, in which prints are either inserted as separate pages or images are printed onto a page within a framing border, Bonnard's designs sprawl over the type, creating a seamless integration of text and image.
In addition to illustrated books, artists also focused their talents on printed designs for sheet-music covers, book jackets, and theater programs. Among the numerous examples in the exhibition, is a delightful album of sheet music, Petites scènes familières (Familiar Little Scenes) and a witty music primer for children Petit solfège illustré, both illustrated by Bonnard and created in collaboration with his brother-in-law, the composer Claude Terrasse. In addition to published editions of the music primer, five of the Jackson's marvelous preparatory watercolors for the book's illustrations will be on display.
Organization and Catalogue
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Judith Brodie, associate curator of prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Art, and Phillip Dennis Cate, director of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, co-curated the exhibition.
The catalogue, with essays by Cate, Gale B. Murray, and Richard Thomson, accompanied by color reproductions of more than 100 works in the exhibition, documents the explosion of printed imagery in Paris in the 1890s. The 183-page soft cover book, published by the National Gallery of Art, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop for $39.95. To order by phone, call (301) 322-5900 or (800) 697-9350.
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