Étiquettes

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Hans Holbein the Elder (German, ca. 1465 – 1524), Portrait of a Woman, ca. 1508. Silverpoint, ink, and chalk heightened with white on white prepared paper. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Woodner Collection

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- The city of Augsburg, Germany has an impressive Renaissance heritage, notably in printmaking innovations, but has long been eclipsed in America by the more well-known Nuremberg. Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540, the first U.S. exhibition to explore Augsburg’s artistic achievements in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, is on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College from September 19 through December 14, 2014.

Organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Imperial Augsburg focuses on prints, drawings, and illustrated books. However, the exhibition also includes medals and one etched set of armor. Of the almost 100 works presented, most are from the National Gallery’s own collection, with additional loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington; and private collectors Andrea Woodner and Andrew Robison. The last major exhibition on this subject was mounted more than three decades ago in Augsburg itself.

This exhibition emphasizes the rich and varied works of art on paper produced in Augsburg from 1475 to 1540, paying particular attention to innovative printmaking techniques as well as the fundamental role of imperial patronage.

It is truly remarkable that the rich and varied history of works on paper in Renaissance Augsburg can be told almost entirely through the National Gallery’s extensive collection of German prints, drawings, and illustrated books—thanks in large part to the contributions of donors over the course of many decades,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.

The exhibition was curated by Gregory Jecmen, associate curator of old master prints and drawings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Freyda Spira, assistant curator of drawings and prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. At the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the exhibition is coordinated by Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings.

The opening event for the exhibition at Vassar takes place on Friday, September 19, at 5:30pm in Taylor Hall, room 102, with a lecture entitled “Imperial Augsburg: A Flourishing Market for Innovative Prints” by curators Jecmen and Spira. It is followed by a reception in the Atrium of the Art Center at 6:45pm with music of the German Renaissance played by the St. John’s Recorder Ensemble. These events are free and open to the public.

The Vassar Libraries and Department of Music will also present major activities in conjunction with the “Imperial Augsburg” exhibit: a 4-month exhibit in the Thompson Memorial Library will focus on the famed fourteenth-century illustrated book “The Nuremberg Chronicle”, and the early-music vocal ensemble Pomerium will perform a program of “Music for Imperial Augsburg, 1518-1548” at Skinner Hall. These events are free and open to the public.

Vassar’s Phagan points out that several circumstances came together to give Augsburg the opportunity to rise as an art hub. The city, located in the state of Bavaria in southern Germany, was founded as a Roman settlement in the reign of Emperor Augustus in 15 BCE. Located at the confluence of two rivers and on trade routes through the Alps to Italy, Augsburg was a prosperous manufacturing center in the late 15th and early 16th century that gave rise to the great banking houses of the Fugger and the Welser families. “Together, these circumstances fostered an important and diverse artistic community, with an established tradition in the printing and metalworking industries,” Phagan explains.

Augsburg was also favored by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (reigned 1493-1519), whose patronage reveals, more than anything, the magnitude of the city’s prestige and fame. During his rule, Augsburg became the location of an Imperial Diet (council) and the center from which the emperor organized all of his print and armor commissions. “As Augsburg’s artists benefited from the patronage of the Habsburg court they also created works for the city’s thriving art market,” says Phagan.

The exhibition is presented in four galleries. One gallery focuses on devotional prints and illustrated books representing the Christian contemplative life. In this period Augsburg, as elsewhere in Germany, witnessed rapid changes and realignments in theological beliefs. Its Renaissance artists came of age in a society still very much engaged in the devotional customs of the late Middle Ages, and prints seen in the show played an important role in the expression of religious devotion.

This gallery also emphasizes the city’s role as a center for cutting-edge printing techniques of the time, including color printing pioneered there by the native printer Erhard Ratdolt (1447-1528) through his use of multiple carved wooden blocks, one for each color, in imitation of illuminated manuscripts. It was further developed by his apprentice Hans Burgkmair I (1472-1531) who went on to create a series of imaginative and complex prints. Etching, a technique originally used to decorate armor, was first explored in prints in Augsburg, by Daniel Hopfer (ca. 1470-1536), a painter and armor decorator turned printmaker.

This gallery also emphasizes the city’s role as a center for cutting-edge printing techniques of the time, including color printing pioneered there by the native printer Erhard Ratdolt (1447-1528) through his use of multiple carved wooden blocks, one for each color, in imitation of illuminated manuscripts. It was further developed by his apprentice Hans Burgkmair I (1472-1531) who went on to create a series of imaginative and complex prints. Etching, a technique originally used to decorate armor, was first explored in prints in Augsburg, by Daniel Hopfer (ca. 1470-1536), a painter and armor decorator turned printmaker.

Another gallery features portraits of both famous and obscure citizens. Portraits could serve as public tributes; Augsburg’s artists made many medals and prints of famous residents and visitors, which were widely disseminated. The gallery includes several portraits of Emperor Maximilian, part of an intense visual and literary campaign launched by the ruler. Artists also depicted soldiers and knights, as in an elegant drawing by an unknown artist of a knight holding a halberd, a long-handled weapon.

Another gallery features portraits of both famous and obscure citizens. Portraits could serve as public tributes; Augsburg’s artists made many medals and prints of famous residents and visitors, which were widely disseminated. The gallery includes several portraits of Emperor Maximilian, part of an intense visual and literary campaign launched by the ruler. Artists also depicted soldiers and knights, as in an elegant drawing by an unknown artist of a knight holding a halberd, a long-handled weapon.

A complementary exhibition presented by the Vassar College Libraries explores the most heavily illustrated book of the 15th century, The Nuremberg Chronicle. The exhibition, Never Before Has Your Like Been Printed: The Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, will be on display in the Thompson Memorial Library from August 27 to December 10.  It showcases printed leaves and editions of this landmark book, and marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the author, the German humanist Hartmann Schedel.

Imperial Augsburg was first shown at the National Gallery of Art in 2012 and it subsequently traveled to the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. The accompanying catalogue—the first of its kind in English—serves as an introduction to Augsburg, its artists and its cultural history, during this period. The catalogue is available for sale at the Art Center. At Vassar, this exhibition is generously supported by the Evelyn Metzger Exhibition Fund.

Matthes Gebel (German, ca. 1500 - 1574), Raimond Fugger, ca.1529. Lead alloy. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection.

Matthes Gebel (German, ca. 1500 – 1574), Raimond Fugger, ca.1529. Lead alloy. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection.

Hans Burgkmair I (German, 1473 – 1531) and Jost de Negker (German, ca. 1485 – 1544), The Lovers Surprised by Death, 1510. Chiaroscuro woodcut printed from 3 blocks on laid paper. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection.

Attributed to Kolman Helmschmid (armor maker) and Daniel Hopfer I. ‘Breast-and Back-plate with Virgin and Child with Saints,’ c.1510-1520 etched steel. (Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Marshall Field)

Emperor Maximilian I in the Guise of St. George, by Daniel Hopfer, c. 1509-10. Etching (iron) with open biting, plate bitten twice, on laid paper.

The City of Augsburg, from Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493. By the Workshops of Michel Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Courtesy the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.