Published: August 7, 2007
Some of the finest examples of prints produced by the lithography firm of Currier & Ives are on view at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts through January 6 in the special exhibition, “Currier & Ives’ Greatest Hits.”
Currier & Ives got its start in 1835, when Nathaniel Currier created a sensation with his print illustrating the great fire that swept through New York City’s business district. In only four days, he printed thousands of copies, attempting to satisfy public demand. The firm went on to produce more than 8,000 different images of scenes of American life before it closed in 1907.
In 1932, a small group of collectors and experts were polled as to their choice of the “Best 50” Currier & Ives prints. Beginning in January of 1933, The New York Sun reproduced the prints, one each night for 50 issues. Although the newspaper printed extra editions, it still sold out. The newspaper series and a companion exhibition of the prints sparked interest in Currier & Ives, and about a year later, the “Best 50” small folio prints were published.
In 1988, the American Historical Print Collector’s Society board decided to revisit Currier & Ives and have members select a “New Best 50.” The objective was not to replace the original list but to develop a new one to reflect the collecting environment of the late 1980s.
The criteria used in the selection process for both the new and old “Best 50” lists were identical. They included subject matter, composition, and the importance and rarity of the print. The “New Best 50” list was completed in 1990, and the prints were exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
“Currier & Ives’ Greatest Hits” features prints from the permanent collection of the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts †gifted to the museum by Lenore B. and Sidney A. Alpert and supplemented by museum acquisition funds †that appear on either the new or old “Best 50” list, as well as some prints that appear on both lists. The prints are arranged thematically and include winter scenes, fire fighting, hunting and fishing scenes, family life, women’s fashions, railroad images, historic moments and more.
The Museum of Fine Arts is on the quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street off Chestnut Street downtown.
For information, www.springfieldmuseums.org or 413-263-6800.
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