The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver

 In Albrecht Durer, Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Exhibits, Rembrandt van Rijn

The Park West Gallery collection features rare art prints by Old Masters, including Albrecht Dürer – best known for exquisite, intricate woodcuts, engravings and etchings. View selections from the Park West Gallery collection

Albrecht Durer. Madonna with the Pear (detail). 1511.

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — The RISD Museum of Art presents The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver, 1480-1650, featuring 85 objects from the RISD Museum’s outstanding collection of Renaissance and Baroque prints — until now unpublished and rarely viewed — as well as objects from major public institutions such as the National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Although most people see and even touch an engraving every day — US currency and many stamps are engraved on steel — few artists work in the medium today. In the Renaissance engraving was new, and one of the world’s first reproducible art forms, full of possibility for the spread of designs of all types throughout Europe. The Brilliant Line focuses on the height of the medium, from 1480 to 1650, when engravers made dramatic and rapid visual changes to engraving technique as they responded to the demands of reproducing artworks in other media.

Engravers learned quickly from one another by buying and trading engravings and meeting fellow practitioners on transcontinental travels. The exhibition takes an international approach, following connections among engravers from Nuremberg, to Rome, to Paris, and the cumulative effects of the knowledge they shared. Objects on view lay out the medium’s continuities, or “systems” — those visual tricks that responded so well to the pictorial problems of tone, texture, and volume — while highlighting the exceptional ingenuity of individual engravers.

Visitors will be invited to think about the relationships between spectacular prints by Albrecht Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi, Cornelis Cort and Agostino Carracci, or Martin Schongauer and Robert Nanteuil. Where many Renaissance print exhibitions have emphasized the regional specificity of particular schools, assembling all printmaking techniques together, this exhibition outlines the fluid geography of engraving and the particular history of one medium as it was shaped by its specific applications and circumstances of production.

The Brilliant Line is currently on view through January 3, 2010.

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Showing 5 comments
  • BrooklynGreene

    The show is fabulous. Luckily, living in the Northeast, we were able to make a day trip to see it.

    It sounds like you would really enjoy the catalogue. “Catalogue” is putting it lightly. It is probably one of the premier works on this period of printmaking to come out, at least in years–the reproductions are phenomenal, probably some of the best reproduction of old master engravings ever. We got a copy at the show. I think you can get one on the RISD Works website or off their museum webpage. Highly recommended! Emily Peters’ and Evelyn Lincoln’s scholarship is top-notch.

    Andrew Raftery did all the drawing that makes the interactive part of the website work allowing you to layer the line work on the example prints online. The images are printed in a kind of step-by-step in the catalogue.

    There is no CD in the catalogue with the interactive tool or the video of him engraving and proofing his Aphrodite Teaching Cupid to Shoot an Arrow but you can access it online and it’ll probably “live” on the web for years.

    I think you can buy his finished print at his NYC gallery. Mary Ryan Gallery represents him. The finished print is in the exhibit. It is phenomenal. It’s not reproduced in the printed catalogue unfortunately. You have to make the pilgrimage to the show in Providence to see it or if you’re in NYC you can see it at his gallery. I would suggest seeing the show at RISD while you have the chance or Northwestern Univ. near Chicago when the show opens there in April 2010 (per the catalogue). The exhibit really explains the process. Very educational.

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