Published: January 21, 2003
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – The Romantic movement was a time of turbulent change and limitless opportunity. The cultural, political and social landscape of Europe forever changed, and the flourishing printmakers of Britain captured this explosion of creativity in great detail.
“s,” on view at the Yale Center for British Art through March 30, features works from the center’s permanent collection that include some of the most compelling artistic statements of this extraordinary period.
Printmaking thrived in Britain during the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries, providing an ideal vehicle for visual artists who were constantly exploring new means to capture the “Spirit of the Age.” Many painters turned to graphic media, either working independently or collaborating closely with professional engravers to create forceful and immediate works.
“s” encompasses several important themes, including the period’s obsession with the past and contemporary events, such as the French and American Revolutions, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Greek War of Independence. As momentous historical events unfolded, they were captured by contemporary engravers, whose prints functioned as photographs or television footage do today, powerfully evoking the intense and often bitter struggles of this “Age of Liberty.”
The exhibition explores artists’ fascination with the natural world, including both exotic sites of imperial conquest and indigenous landscapes. It also examines the close relationship between literature and the visual arts through images ranging from large-scale engravings from the center’s Shakespeare Gallery to exquisite, tiny vignettes engraved from watercolors by J.M.W. Turner to illustrate the works of Byron, Milton and Sir Walter Scott. The exhibition probes the depths of the complex and often tortured Romantic psyche, featuring prints by George Stubbs, Henry Fuseli, and the great visionary artist-engravers William Blake and John Martin.
“s” complements the concurrent exhibition, “Romantics & Revolutionaries: Regency Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, London,” and provides an expanded context against which portraits can be viewed. “The Romantic Print” showcases a wide range of engraved portraits, and demonstrates how prints played a crucial role in the creation of the celebrity status of their subjects. A section devoted to the cult of the hero features images related to Lord Byron, the ultimate iconic figure of the Romantic period, and provides an in-depth account of the engraving and publication history of William Woollett’s celebrated print of Benjamin West’s influential painting, “The Death of General Wolfe.”
Visitors will have the opportunity to see examples of a wide range of printmaking techniques. Samples of aquatint, etching, mezzotint, line-engraving, lithography, relief etching and stipple will be shown, along with rare progress proofs, printmaking tools and plates.
The Yale Center for British Art is at 1080 Chapel Street (on the corner of High Street). For information, 203-432-2800 or www.yale.edu/ycba.
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