Hans Mack. Comet over Nuremberg, October 1580. 1580. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremburg.
Hans Mack. Comet over Nuremberg, October 1580. 1580. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremburg.

BALTIMORE, MD (October 6, 2002)—The Baltimore Museum of Art presents the first major exhibition ever organized of hand-colored prints from the 16th and 17th centuries in Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance & Baroque Engravings, Etchings & Woodcuts. This groundbreaking exhibition, on display from October 6, 2002–January 5, 2003, brings together more than 100 rarely loaned works from European and American museums and private collections. Featuring nearly 50 works by master printmaker Albrecht Dürer, Painted Prints reveals that black-and-white Renaissance prints were commonly painted with brilliant colors near the time of their production—not centuries later as presumed by many art scholars.

“Outstanding research by The Baltimore Museum of Art’s own curator and conservator has led to a truly remarkable exhibition,” said BMA Director Doreen Bolger. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover works that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years.”

One of the highlights is the presentation of 27 pairs of rarely seen hand-colored Dürer prints and their uncolored counterparts, a juxtaposition not likely to be seen again. All of the black-and-white prints are drawn from The Baltimore Museum of Art’s remarkable Old Master print collection.

Printed in black ink and brushed with transparent washes, bold opaque colors, and hints of silver and gold by professional print colorists, the works in the exhibition range from early devotional woodcuts to playing cards to monumental wall decorations. Magnificent images by printmakers Pieter Bruegel and Hans Burgkmair, and father/son print colorists Hans and Georg Mack will be included. And, for the first time, a colored version of Dürer’s monumental 12-ft.-high Triumphal Arch, a composite of 192 prints immortalizing the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian’s achievements, will be presented in the United States. A 320-page full-color catalogue co-published by The Baltimore Museum of Art and Penn State University Press is also available.

Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color is organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and curated by Susan Dackerman, BMA Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs. Thomas Primeau, BMA Associate Paper Conservator, prepared the scientific and technical aspects of the exhibition. The exhibition will travel to the St. Louis Art Museum, February 14 through May 18, 2003.

This exhibition is generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, promoting excellence in the humanities, and by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The Baltimore presentation is supported by Brown Investment Advisory & Trust Company and the Howard and Martha Head Fund. Additional support for research, travel, and the exhibition catalogue is provided by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, with funds from the Samuel H. Kress Paired Fellowship for Research in Conservation and the History of Art and Archaeology.

The Exhibition
Combining art historical and scientific expertise, Dr. Susan Dackerman, BMA Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs, and Thomas Primeau, BMA Associate Paper Conservator, traveled to castles on mountaintops, scoured 500-year-old town ledgers, and unlocked the mysteries of pigments with the latest conservation technology to reveal that, contrary to prevailing art historical opinions, the professional coloring of prints was a common practice during the Renaissance, and hand coloring prints was a specialized trade in numerous northern European cities.

“The 16th– and 17th– century visual experience was filled with the colors of stained-glass windows, tapestries, frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and oil paintings,” said Dackerman. “Why wouldn’t prints bear the same brilliant colors?”

The BMA’s exhibition brings together works that once decorated the walls of private homes, served as religious devotional images, called attention to news sheets posted in the town square, and added an air of splendor to missives from the emperor. An entire gallery is dedicated to the print colorist’s profession. Accented with leaded-glass windows and a timbered ceiling, it includes a recreation of a Renaissance print colorist’s workshop, complete with easel, brushes, and period pigments. Visitors can explore how woodcuts and engravings were made, how paints were applied to prints by freehand coloring and stenciling, and how pigments were produced from minerals, roots, and plants.

A major web site component, available in the galleries through a computer kiosk and online this fall through the BMA’s web site (www.artbma.org), provides a more in-depth exploration of painted prints. Visitors journey into the world of brilliantly colored prints to learn more about why prints were colored, who painted them, and how this important aspect of printmaking was rediscovered by a BMA curator and conservator. This interactive guide to painted prints also provides visitors with the opportunity to zoom in on fascinating details, remove color from prints to reveal its importance firsthand, and see how high-tech pigment analysis can date the paint on a print.

Susan Dackerman
In 1995 Dackerman brought her expertise in northern European Renaissance prints to the BMA, where she has curated Book Arts in the Age of Dürer, The Pious and the Profane: Looking at Renaissance Prints, and The Age of Rembrandt: Prints from the Museum’s Collection. Dackerman also organized Chaste, Chased and Chastened: Old Testament Women in Northern Prints at The Harvard University Art Museums. She previously held positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University. She received an A.B. in Art History from Vassar College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College. Dackerman has received a Samuel H. Kress Foundation fellowship, as well as two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color.

Thomas Primeau
Associate Paper Conservator at the BMA since 1998, Primeau received an M.A. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation Program in the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works from the State University College at Buffalo in 1996. He earned an M.A. in Art History from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. Primeau was previously assistant paper conservator at the McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory, Inc. in Oberlin, Ohio, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and the Detroit Institute of the Arts. He was awarded the Samuel H. Kress/Ailsa Mellon Bruce Paired Visiting Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1999.

Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance & Baroque Engravings, Etchings & Woodcuts makes a groundbreaking contribution to the study of Old Master prints. In addition to reproduction and discussion of a variety of hand-colored prints from northern Europe of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the book presents new research into the artists who specialized in hand coloring and offers numerous insights into the social and economic organization of Renaissance and Baroque printmaking. It also draws on scientific analyses of the materials and techniques of hand coloring to address important issues of authenticity, chronology, and condition. Co-published by The Baltimore Museum of Art and Penn State University Press. 320 pages. $55 cloth; $35 paper. Available at the BMA Shop, 410/396-6338, and through Penn State University Press, 1-800-326-9180, or www.psupress.org.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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