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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.
Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.

Did you know that nearly half of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection consists of works on paper? We have more than 15,000 rare prints, drawings, photographs, and book arts.

Works on paper cannot be shown indefinitely, because they are light-sensitive; light will cause them to fade.  Accordingly, in order to preserve them in the best condition possible, they are rotated.  A rotation is when one work is taken off view and replaced with another, usually every three to four months.

The Museum has a number of new spaces dedicated to works on paper.  The focus of these areas range from European prints and drawings (Gallery S202), to modern art from the Bradley Collection (Gallery K215), to Folk and Self-Taught art (Gallery K122). When not on view, those works on paper are stored safely in the dark.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Albrecht Dürer, Part 3

The inaugural exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until March 20) explores the Renaissance in Germany. Comprised completely of prints from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you can find engravings by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502–ca. 1561) and stipple engravings by Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550). But you can’t study printmaking in the German Renaissance without a serious consideration of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). And we’re lucky enough to have 14 prints by the master! This is the third and final of a series of posts related to Dürer’s prints.

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), The Hermits St. Anthony and St. Paul in the Desert, ca. 1504. Woodcut. Milwaukee Art Museum, Maurice and Esther Leah Ritz Collection M2004.179. Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er.
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), The Hermits St. Anthony and St. Paul in the Desert, ca. 1504. Woodcut. Milwaukee Art Museum, Maurice and Esther Leah Ritz Collection M2004.179. Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er.

Sometimes the specialized terminology used in the study of art can be intimidating. This can particularly be a problem with works on paper! In this post I hope to explain the difference between two important printmaking techniques, using Albrecht Dürer as an example, so that they are no longer so daunting.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Albrecht Dürer, Part 2

The inaugural exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until March 20) explores the Renaissance in Germany. Comprised completely of prints from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you can find engravings by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502–ca. 1561) and stipple engravings by Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550). But you can’t study printmaking in the German Renaissance without a serious consideration of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). And we’re lucky enough to have 14 prints by the master! This is the second of a series of posts related to Dürer’s prints.

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), Madonna with the Monkey, ca. 1498. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt Collection, presented by William H. Schuchardt M1924.169. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), Madonna with the Monkey, ca. 1498. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt Collection, presented by William H. Schuchardt M1924.169. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.

Last time, we learned a little about Albrecht Dürer by looking at a woodcut from his series called The Apocalypse. In this post, we’ll look at a different type of print—an engraving—with religious subject matter.

Madonna with the Monkey is one of several Madonna and child compositions that Dürer produced throughout his career. His Catholic German patrons would be interested in the powerful woman that had become so central to the salvation of man by being the mother of Christ. This type of print would be popular and consequently sell well. In the current display at the Milwaukee Art Museum, there are two other depictions of the Madonna and child (Madonna and the Infant in Swaddling and the Madonna with the Pear) and two prints from the series The Life of the Virgin (The Death of Mary and The Circumcision of Jesus).

In Madonna with the Monkey, Dürer shows a young, loving mother holding her chubby baby. This display of emotion, combined with the well-modeled physicality of the figures, is a contrast to previous depictions of the Madonna and Child found in central Europe (compare this sculptural example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). This is likely a result of Dürer’s first visit to Italy, from 1491 to 1495. While there, he studied artwork of the Italian Renaissance and the classical past. He brought back sketches and ideas which moved German art away from the frontal, stylized representations of the middle ages.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Albrecht Dürer, Part 1

The inaugural exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until March 20) explores the Renaissance in Germany. Comprised completely of prints from the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you can find engravings by Heinrich Aldegrever (1502–ca. 1561) and stipple engravings by Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550). But you can’t study printmaking in the German Renaissance without a serious consideration of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). And we’re lucky enough to have 14 prints by the master! This is the first of a series of posts related to Dürer’s prints.

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), St. John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks, from the series The Apocalypse, 1498; published 1511. Woodcut. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Albert O. Trostel M1972.41. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), St. John’s Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks, from the series The Apocalypse, 1498; published 1511. Woodcut. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Albert O. Trostel M1972.41. Photo credit: P. Richard Eells.

Albrecht Dürer is often considered the father of the northern Renaissance. He traveled to Italy twice, bringing the Italian Renaissance’s interests in art and culture back to Germany. Not only was he a well-respected visual artist, but he was also a widely published author on humanistic thought and scientific topics.  Also, he was engaged in debate on religious issues. Serving as the first court artist to Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and his successor Charles V, Dürer had access to some of the highest social circles of Europe.  Accordingly, he embraced the Renaissance idea of the artist as a creative genius whose gifts were bestowed by God rather than as a hard-working craftsman.

One way that Dürer influenced the artistic trajectory of the northern Renaissance is through his masterful approach to printmaking. His exploration of the unique way that prints can show light and dark, as well as how they can tell a powerful story, made printmaking an artwork in its own right rather than just a way to illustrate printed books. Today we begin a series that explores Dürer’s role in the history of printmaking by looking closely at some of his prints on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum.