Published: October 8, 2002
AUSTIN, TEX. – Noted art historian and critic Leo Steinberg has given his collection of more than 3,200 prints to the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin.
The gift includes prints from the Fifteenth through the Twentieth Centuries, including masterpieces by Marcantonio Raimondi, Albrecht Dürer, Parmigianino, Cornelis Cort, Hendrick Goltzius, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt and Francesco Piranesi, as well as William Blake, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, George Grosz, and Jasper Johns.
At the Blanton Museum, the Leo Steinberg Collection will become a resource for students, faculty and scholars. It also enhances the Blanton’s standing as it develops a new facility scheduled to open in 2005. The new building will provide greatly expanded galleries and teaching spaces for the Blanton’s rapidly growing permanent collection.
Developed by Steinberg, the collection was shaped over four decades by the historian’s knowledge and vision. Steinberg has been called “the ideal of what a print collector should be” by Timothy Riggs, scholar of Northern Renaissance prints and the assistant director of the Ackland Art Museum. The collection’s areas of great depth correspond with Steinberg’s diverse historical and critical interests. Ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary art, the collection has long been used by Steinberg himself as a teaching resource. It reflects his extraordinary understanding of prints as an art form and as “the circulating lifeblood of ideas” for generations of artists.
The Leo Steinberg Collection resonates within the Blanton’s encyclopedic collection, which now comprises more than 17,000 works of art, and it provides new opportunities for scholars and visitors to explore artists and periods across media. The addition of Steinberg’s print collection reinforces the Blanton’s international stature as a leading museum for the collection, exhibition and study of Old Master paintings, drawings and prints. The gift builds upon the museum’s celebrated Suida-Manning Collection of later Renaissance and Baroque paintings and drawings, which came to the museum as a partial gift in 1998, and strengthens the Blanton’s significant holdings of prints and drawings, which include works ranging from the Fifteenth through the Twentieth Centuries. The Leo Steinberg Collection also complements the Blanton’s noteworthy holdings of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century works from the United States and Latin America.
Steinberg began collecting Italian Renaissance and Mannerist prints, along with reproductive prints of all periods, in the early 1960s, 20 to 30 years before academic and collecting circles were devoting attention to these fields. Continuing to acquire Old Master prints, and adding modern and contemporary works throughout the years, Steinberg formed a comprehensive collection of works representative of his expertise and eye for quality. The collection reflects his distinguished career as a groundbreaking scholar, inspiring teacher, art lover and connoisseur. The correspondences between his own collection and the Blanton’s encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings were important in Steinberg’s decision to make the gift to the museum. In doing so, he has ensured that his print collection will provide a range of opportunities for individuals within the university community and beyond to explore the evolution of printmaking from the perspective of a great scholar.
“Having spent most of my life studying art and sharing my enthusiasm with others,” Steinberg said, “it was important to me that this collection live within a museum where it will continue to intrigue and inspire students and be recognized as a resource for teaching, research and sheer pleasure. The Blanton, with its outstanding curator and its far-reaching collections of prints and drawings and Old Master works, provides a perfect fit. I hope this gift will encourage other collectors to further enrich the Blanton’s collections.”
Early Reproductive Prints of Masterpieces by Michelangelo
Among the highlights from this area of the collection are engravings by Giorgio Ghisi, including superb impressions of the “Prophets and Sibyls” after Michelangelo’s frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The collection also includes numerous prints that represent the best surviving record of works by Michelangelo that have been destroyed or lost.
Sixteenth Century Italian and French Prints
Including some of the earliest and most influential reproductive engravings in history, the collection features distinctive prints by Marcantonio Raimondi and his immediate circle and followers, including Agostino Veneziano and Marco Dente. One of the largest and most fantastic of all early Sixteenth Century engravings, Veneziano’s so-called “Stregozzo,” or “The Witches’ Sabbath,” an impression once owned by the Seventeenth Century English artist and collector Sir Philip Lely, is of particular note.
The collection also includes excellent impressions of many significant Sixteenth Century etchings. These include a landscape by Domenico Campagnola that is believed to be unique, as well as etchings by Andrea Schiavone and Federico Barocci’s “Saint Francis in the Chapel at Assisi.” Rare works from the related school of etching at Francis I’s showplace villa at Fontainebleau, including Antonio Fantuzzi’s “Jupiter and Antiope,” the finest impression known, and three very rare nudes by Juste de Juste, are complemented by works from artists such as Léon Davent, among others. Finally, the collection features fine groups of chiaroscuro woodcuts and woodcuts after Titian.
Sixteenth Century German, Flemish and Dutch Artists
The art historical representation of Sixteenth Century prints is further broadened with engravings created in early Sixteenth Century Nuremberg by the so-called “Little Masters,” including Hans Sebald Beham, Heinrich Aldegrever and Georg Pencz. Also, an exceptionally strong series of engravings by Cornelis Cort showcases the flourishing of pictorial values and differentiation of mark that occurred during the next stage of reproductive engraving. Among these are Cort’s two versions of the “Martyrdom of St. Lawrence,” after Titian. Other major strengths lie in Dutch Mannerist engravings by Hendrik Goltzius, Jacques de Gheyn, Jacob Matham and Jan Saenredam, including Goltzius’s three “Antique Roman Statues,” the set of the “Roman Heroes,” and de Gheyn’s “Bodyguard of Rudolf II.”
The Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries
The acquisition encompasses most of the major masters of Seventeenth Century Italian etching, including significant groups by Stefano della Bella and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and extraordinary impressions of Claude Lorrain’s landscapes created in Seventeenth Century Rome. The full scope of Seventeenth Century Dutch etchings is also represented, including not only etchings by Rembrandt, but also numerous landscape and genre scenes and rare prints by many of the subtlest masters of the period. The collection also contains exceptional engravings by the circle of printmakers formed by Rubens and a rich array of French prints from Jacques Callot to the masters of portrait engraving. Among Steinberg’s favorites are such little-known works as the etchings of Giuseppe Caletti and the woodcuts of Pieter Kints after Anthonius Sallaert.
The Eighteenth Century
This period is represented with works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, including the full set of the “Jeux de satyres,” and with a series of French portrait engravings. Also strong are the collection’s Eighteenth Century British etchings, including the prints of Alexander Runciman, John Clerk of Eldin and a unique proof of William Blake’s early portrait of Lavater. Etchings by Nineteenth Century British artist Samuel Palmer, including a rare trial proof of his masterpiece, “The Morning of Life,” and Nineteenth Century French etchings by major masters round out the prints from these centuries.
Modern and Contemporary Prints
Among the contemporary prints in the collection are eight Picassos, including the 1925 lithograph “Tête de femme” and “Blind Minotaur” from the Vollard Suite; five Matisses, including a 1914 monotype “Portrait of Mme Derain” and the “Nu assis” of 1931; three very rare proofs of George Grosz drypoints from 1914; and an impression of Jasper Johns’ “Ale Cans,” which is considered by many to be the artist’s first great print. This print was made as a cover for Steinberg’s pioneering essay “Jasper Johns,” 1963.
For information, 512-232-1988 or www.utexas.edu.
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