The Art of the Print
Printmaking has long been at the service of other media. In 1516, if a Dutchman in Delft wanted to experience the transcendent beauty of Raphael’s Madonna, newly painted in Piacenza, Italy, a print could offer a hint of its majesty. An 18th-century Londoner finishing up the Grand Tour who wanted to remember Michelangelo’s Pietà would buy a print. Some artists (most famously, Albrecht Dürer and Martin Schongauer) immediately exploited the unique textures and shading offered by woodblocks and engraving plates. Of course, they also benefited from easy sales and wide distribution of their images that the reproductive print offered. Yet, artists interested in the print media for its own ends remained few and far between until the 17th century when a wave of new techniques—mezzotint, aquatint, and in the 19th century, lithography—allowed new tonal subtleties and color. The myriad of printmaking methods multiplied further by combining existing techniques and adding in new technological innovations. Painters and sculptors had a new arena in which to play.
In this exhibition, we spotlight examples rarely, if ever, seen by Hansjürg Brunner, Marino Marini, Eduardo Chillida, Bernhard Luginbühl, Cornélia Forster, Georges Rouault, Raoul Ubac, Italo Valenti, Martin Disler, Peter Emch, Camille Graeser, Alfred Hofkunst, H.R. Huber, Jean-Paul Michel, Eduardo Pignon, Anslem Stalder, Charles Walch, and Franz Anatol Wyss. With this ensemble, we illustrate not only the radical possibilities inherent in this medium, but also take a moment to explain exactly how the different processes work. Erik Waterkotte, Assistant Professor of Print Media at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, generously loaned tools of the trade from the Department of Art & Art History to further explicate printmaking. While we do not want to strip away all of the magic, we hope that a little behind-the-scenes look will reveal the mastery and materiality uniquely embedded in printmaking.