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featuring 85 objects from the RISD Museum’s outstanding collection of Renaissance and Baroque prints — until now unpublished and rarely viewed — as well as objects from major public institutions such as the National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.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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