Before the sixteenth century, images of artists were rare in European art, but from that time onward, they became increasingly common. These images included portraits of artists, self-portraits, scenes depicting artists at work or with their family, friends, models, or patrons, allegories of art, and depictions of the viewing public. This proliferation of portrayals of artists signaled changing perceptions about both artists and art itself. Artists’ work came to be seen less as manual labor and more as an intellectual and creative enterprise, and the social status of artists rose and expanded. Artists represented themselves and their colleagues as gentlemen, craftsmen, scholars, and outsiders.
This exhibition presents a selection of prints from the collection of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation dating from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, and features works by Rembrandt, Hendrick Goltzius, Claude Lorrain, Adriaen van Ostade, Francisco Goya, and William Hogarth, as well as many others. Prints like these were disseminated widely and helped sow the seeds of modern perceptions of artists and their work. In addition to offering insights into the self-perception of these artists, these prints specifically show us how painters, sculptors, and printmakers were trained, how they were continually inspired by ancient sculpture, and even how they used prints to poke fun at others in their profession with differing views.
Located in Houston, the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation maintains a collection of earlier European art for the benefit of the people of Texas. The goal of the Foundation is to collect and preserve masterworks of art and to present this collection for educational purposes; in some cases, as here, the collection is permitted to travel outside the state.