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"Mastering the Medium: Woodcuts"
2000-05-27 until 2000-08-20
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, CA,
USA United States of America
This is the third in a series of exhibitions featuring the main printmaking media and
based on selections from the Museum's collection. These broad surveys provide an
overview of each medium while illustrating the scope and particular strengths of the print
collection, now numbering approximately 9000 works. In the case of woodcuts we are
able to trace the history of the medium to its very beginnings in the era of book publishing
and illustration using woodcuts.
The l5th century Augsburg artist Gunther Zainer, was
probably the first to use woodcut images in printed pages to replace the hand drawn and
painted religious images previously of manuscript illuminators. Two elaborate religious
scenes in the High Renaissance style by Albrecht Durer represent masterpieces in the
use of woodcut artistry which had evolved rapidly by the late l5th century, and an early l6th
century woodcut by Italian artist Hugo da Carpi employs multiple woodcut blocks printed
in differing colors introduces another stage in the evolution of the woodcut.
Representing the great revival of interest in the use of woodcut as a medium for original
artistic expression, the exhibition includes a large group of l9th century works. Included
are examples of French, English and American artists inspired by the techniques and
compositions of Japanese color woodcuts which made their appearance in Europe
beginning in the mid-l9th century. The l9th century selections also include the original,
innovative use of woodcuts by artists such as Felix Valloton who in the l890s initiated the
modern movement in the use of woodcut. This impetus was closely followed by the
powerful work of the German Expressionists exemplified by two l9l4 works by Karl
Schmidt-Rottluff. Another revival in the l950s led by such artists as Leonard Baskin and
Antonio Frasconi, along with the use of the woodcut by a number of contemporary artists
demonstrates the continuing vitality and relevance of the medium.
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