Prints as collector’s items, mass media and showpieces
14 March – 16 August 2020
In this spring’s exhibition of works from the collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art, we present prints by old masters from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries and their revolutionary pictorial world. The exhibition provides insights into the birth of European mass media along with a discussion of how artworks are incorporated into art history, as well as the subjects that printing techniques made possible. The presentation also provides a deeper insight into the collection of prints at the Gothenburg Museum of Art and shows the imprint that individual collectors have made over the years.
At the end of the 15th century, the printing press revolutionised the spread of information in Europe. News and trends could travel faster. The new medium was used by, among others, royal families and the church to spread their message. Alternative views and science also got the possibility to reach a wider audience.
The printing techniques facilitated the dissemination of current events, such as depictions of war and coronations. The image, which until then had chiefly been accessible in churches, suddenly came closer to the populace thanks to its reproduction on paper. With broader distribution, there was an increase in knowledge about skilled artists who achieved wide-spread celebrity status.
New techniques – new possibilities
The new techniques also enabled the depiction of new subjects that were seldom seen in painting. Artists could strike a more personal tone, since prints were not commissions to the same extent as paintings. A broader public was supplied with playing cards, genre scenes and exotic animals.
The exhibition features iconic works by grand printmakers such as Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Lucas van Leyden (1494–1533), and Marcantonio Raimondi (1475–1534), alongside masters who are less well-known. Some of the highlights are The Birth of Christ, made around 1450 by Master ES (active ca 1450–1467), which is considered one of the earliest prints in the history of Europe, and Battista Franco’s (ca 1510–1561) Saint Jerome, one of the largest prints in terms of size of the 16th century.
The exhibition features around 100 works from the comprehensive collection of artworks on paper at the Gothenburg Museum of Art. The Museum seldom shows art on paper due to the works’ sensitivity to light, and space concerns. Now, the art public has an opportunity to see a broad selection of these hidden gems.
The entire collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art comprises around 70 000 works spanning seven centuries, of which around 61 000 are artworks on paper, including watercolours and drawings as well as prints.
Top Image: Agostino Musi, Marcantonio Raimondi, The Witch’s Procession, ca 1520–1527.