In the second half of the sixteenth century, the copperplate engraving reigned as the supreme conveyor of visual information in Europe. Capable of far greater detail and tonal range than the woodcut, which was waning in popularity at this time, the art of engraving nonetheless required long training, great technical skill, and patience. For this reason, with a few notable exceptions, prominent painters who wished to see their ideas distributed in the form of prints worked directly with print publishers and the engravers in their employ.
This exhibition celebrates the inventiveness and the variety of engravings coming out of what is now the Netherlands and Belgium during the mid to late sixteenth century, as well as the broad range of interests among a rapidly growing class of print collectors. This print-buying public purchased prints and print series by the thousands, carefully trimming off the margins and placing them in thematically arranged albums for enjoyment and edification—this is why they survive for us today. Some of the themes represented in this gallery include issues of morality, tales from the Bible and from classical mythology, allegories, landscapes, and the art treasures of far-off Rome.
Capping off the exhibition is a group of engravings showing the unmistakable hand and graphic inventiveness of Hendrik Goltzius (1558—1617); his prints, as well as those by the many printmakers trained in his style, spread the elegance of the engraved line across Europe as the sixteenth century turned into the seventeenth.
Andrew C. Weislogel
Associate Curator / Master Teacher