Printed Renaissance

An exhibition organized by the Clark Art Institute and curated by Yuefeng Wu, MA Class of 2022

Printmaking—the art of producing multiple images by carving the surface of a copperplate or a woodblock—became an important tool for copying the works of notable artists during the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, humanist writers discussed different artists’ merits and their contributions to the history of art. With the proliferation of books and prints, there developed a widespread demand for graphic material and a vibrant culture of art criticism, which together forged a canon of artists and fundamentally shaped how Europeans viewed and understood Italian art in the centuries to come.

This exhibition brings together reproductive prints copied after celebrated Renaissance artists and printed books that discuss their lives and works, so as to understand the impact of printmaking on these artists’ long-lasting reputation and reception. The objects on view show how print and book publishers from the 1500s on engaged with the Italian artistic tradition, and how they actively contributed to the making of that tradition by publishing art criticism, reissuing historical prints, and commissioning new graphic reproductions. Gathered together, these works trace out the nascent idea of Italian Renaissance art and the growing sense of its historical development, which laid the early modern foundation for the viewing of art and discussion of art history in modern-day museums and universities.

Printed Renaissance was on view in the Eugene V. Thaw Gallery for Works on Paper at the Clark Art Institute from July 29, 2023, through October 22, 2023.

Featured image: Pietro Aquila, after Annibale Carracci, Frontispiece to Images of the Farnese Gallery (Rome: Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi, 1674), The Clark Library, ND623 C32 G355