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"From Rembrandt to Rauschenberg: Recently Acquired Prints "
2000-09-17 until 2000-11-26
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, OH, USA

Since the last exhibition of recent acquisitions exactly six years ago, important purchases and generous gifts have greatly enhanced the museum’s print collection. The Print Club of Cleveland, formed in 1919 to support the department of prints and drawings, continues to do so unsparingly as numerous donations from both the organization and individual members testify. The new additions are tremendously varied, illustrating five centuries of printmaking. They fill gaps, augment strengths, and introduce new artists to the museum.

The finest impressions by Rembrandt (1606–1669), one of the most experimental and greatest printmakers, are now exceedingly rare, so that it is important to take advantage when an opportunity appears. A beautiful impression of The Presentation in the Temple: In the Dark Manner, from about 1654, exemplifies how Rembrandt used light to symbolize divinity and spirituality. By employing an unsystematic network of fine crosshatching in the background and by varying the density of groups of parallel lines on the figures, he created a rich pictorial effect and an evocative atmosphere, where forms emerge from shimmering half-lights.

Another fortuitous event was the sale of works from the estate of Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922), which allowed the museum to acquire its first prints by this important teacher and artist: Moonrise from about 1915 and Dragon and Orchard (along with the four woodblocks used to print it) from about 1908. Influenced by the flat, simplified compositions of colorful Japanese woodcuts, Dow was instrumental in reviving the color woodcut in America.

The representation of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), the 20th century’s greatest printmaker, was greatly improved by a pristine impression, one of the first 50 printed, of Minotaur Caressing a Sleeping Woman (1933; illustrated here) from the Vollard Suite. A group of 100 prints executed between 1930 and 1937, they were published by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1939. The Minotaur, a creature from classical mythology with human body and bull’s head, was a potent symbol for Picasso and assumes various guises in the Vollard Suite, reflecting many aspects of the artist’s complex personality.

Recent prints are also avidly sought, and when BP America, Inc., sold its art collection Usuyuki, a 1981 screenprint by Jasper Johns (b. 1930), was one of the works obtained. While the complex pattern of lines, which forms triangles or polygons, creates an illusion of three dimensions, the underlying rectangular grid and the circular, brightly colored accents reinforce the paper’s flatness. It is the tension created by this spatial ambiguity, characteristic of Johns’s strongest work, that makes Usuyuki visually exciting and mentally stimulating.

From Rembrandt to Rauschenberg: Recently Acquired Prints presents more than 100 treasures of European and American printmaking from the 16th century onward. There are many rare works: a Lucas Cranach woodcut, St. George Slaying the Dragon (about 1510); Casper David Friedrich’s woodcut, The Woman with the Spider Web between Bare Trees (about 1801); and proofs by Francisco Goya of the aquatint A Bad Night from the Caprichos (1799) and one of seven known impressions of the lithograph Woman Reading to Two Children (about 1824). The 20th century is also well represented with El Lissitzky’s lithograph, Proun I (1923); Benton Spruance’s lithograph, American Pattern—Barn (1940); and to bring us up to date, Lorna Simpson’s screenprint on two pieces of felt, Backdrops Circa 1940s, purchased hot off the press in 1998.

Jane Glaubinger, Curator of Prints

IMAGE:
Drawing directly on the copper plate with a drypoint needle,
Picasso gives a virtuoso performance in Minotaur Caressing a Sleeping Woman
(platemark: 29.6 x 36.5 cm, sheet: 38.5 x 50.1 cm, John L. Severance Fund 2000.20).
Picasso, the ardent Minotaur, expresses love and passion for his radiant young mistress, the beautiful Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he had met in 1927.


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