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Renaissance Impressions: Sixteenth-Century Master Prints from the Kirk Edward Long Collection

Renaissance Impressions, which includes 82 masterworks in varying techniques by artists as diverse as Albrecht Dürer and Hendrik Goltzius, explores the seminal role that prints played in shaping Renaissance visual culture throughout Europe. The exhibition offers a rich and comprehensive survey of the Golden Age of printmaking and reveals the vital impact of this new creative medium on art, education, and society. It was through the printed image that the myths and motifs of ancient Greece and Rome became widely known, and religious imagery was transmitted across geographical and cultural boundaries. Artistic innovation was also impelled by this new reproductive medium, which allowed the broad distribution of influential compositions by such towering figures as Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, and Raphael. The exhibition features many of the era’s most extraordinary and influential prints, including examples in all graphic media from Europe’s major printmaking centers of Antwerp, Florence, Fontainebleau, Haarlem, Mantua, Paris, Prague, and Rome.

Works from MAG’s rich collection of Renaissance decorative arts, including armor, stained glass, ceramics, and textiles, are interspersed throughout the loan exhibition of prints. These works highlight the surprising interconnections between this new print medium and how artists in other media transmitted, transformed, and translated print imagery. This appropriation of the print medium by other artists and craftspeople created a shared visual vocabulary that crossed artistic media and geographical boundaries.

Printmaking has been called the “contemporary art” of the Renaissance. Throughout the 16th century and beyond, print images proliferated and the market for both religious and secular imagery flourished. This developing market led to the new profession of print publishers, who offered collectors diverse subjects from ancient myths to traditional Christian motifs. Compelling imagery, imaginative design, and technical virtuosity were the qualities most prized by 16th-century collectors; professional print publishers straddled the line between art and business, commissioning works from the best artists of the time.


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