Art Museum Old Master Prints Exhibition Opens Jan. 20
11, 2001 -- From
Jan. 20 through March 28, the Bayly Art Museum at the University
of Virginia will present a special exhibition, Virgins, Gods,
Saints and Lovers: Strangeness and Style in Mannerist Prints.
Drawn from the museums permanent collection and curated by
Susan Maxwell, a doctoral candidate in the McIntire Department of
Art, these 16th-century prints offer evidence of a period of intense
religious and political upheaval as well as a return to ancient
literature as sources of inspiration for subject matter.
The term "mannerism" refers
to works that show certain stylistic tendencies such as the use
of geometric forms, deformation or elongation of figures, exaggerated
gestures, strange lighting and perspectives, and evocative atmosphere.
The diverse subjects present in the exhibition also attest to an
interest in mysterious and even macabre themes. "Many of the
works show a delight in erotic subjects taken from mythology or
a perverse joy in sadistic representations of martyrdom and battle,"
explains Maxwell. "If the moralizing texts that accompany the
works often seem to confuse the viewer in deciding whether to be
critical of the scene presented," she adds, "the ambiguity
is purposeful." The broad range of expression is especially
evident in works from Hendrick Goltzius to Antonio Tempesta, both
of whom took equal pleasure in the virtuoso handling of the burin,
a cutting tool used by an engraver. Among the other artists represented
in the exhibition are Abraham Bloemaert, Giulio Bonasone, Agustino
Carracci, Cornelis Cort, Jacob Matham and Johannes Sadeler.
The exhibition juxtaposes strange
subjects and modes of expression, ranging from depictions of the
Virgin Mary to unusual mythological scenes and complex allegories.
The emphasis, even in prints with religious themes, is on the sensual
use of line and contrived poses of the human body. Of special interest
throughout the exhibition is how the artists strive to attain a
synthesis between technical skill and provocative themes. "The
variety of techniques and subjects," notes Maxwell, "attests
to the advent of artistic individuality in a quest for style and
poetic strangeness among printmakers of the 16th century."
While many of the works in the exhibition
are etchings or woodcuts, the majority are engravings. Their exquisitely
etched lines and controlled cross-hatchings changed the world of
printmaking from a practice geared primarily to reproductions to
that of fine art in its own right. This golden age of engraving
did not last into the 17th century, however; with the advent of
master etchers, including Rembrandt, engraving became a tool for
reproduction, which was in turn, replaced in the 19th century by
On Sunday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m.,
Maxwell will present a gallery talk on Old Master prints in the
Museum. Her presentation is open to the public.
The Bayly Art Museum is open to the
public Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 5p.m. Admission is free. The
museum is located on Rugby Road, a short distance from the Rotunda,
and a small parking lot behind the building is available to visitors.
Photographs are available.
Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298