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Messing About with Masterpieces: New Work by Giambattista Piranesi (1720-1778)

‘I have need of great ideas, and I believe that if I were commanded to design a new universe, I should have the folly to undertake such a thing.’ —Giambattista Piranesi

The 18th century printmaker Giambattista Piranesi is best known for his views of Rome (Vedute di Roma), those beautifully observed, deeply Romantic evocations of decrepit grandeur, and for his loose and labyrinthine invented prisons, the Carceri. Both have been hallmarks of refined, if slightly dusty, interiors for two centuries, but a recent exhibition at Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice argued for a new view of the artist as a multi-tasking globalist in tune with 21st century technological adventurism. …Read More

Embracing the Whole Story: a Conversation with Deborah Wye

Deborah Wye recently retired as The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at The Museum of Modern Art. Over the course of her 31 years at MoMA, she organized and co-organized many major exhibitions, including Thinking Print: Books to Billboards, 1980–95 ; Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples, 1960 to Now (2006); and Committed to Print: Social and Political Themes in Recent American Printed Art (1988), and published extensively on subjects ranging from Russian avant-garde books to Louise Bourgeois. She was also responsible for a significant expansion of the department’s holdings, particularly in areas of less traditional print production, though for her last exhibition she returned to MoMA’s roots with a close look at the creative process of MoMA’s most axiomatic artist in Picasso: Themes and Variations. Currently she is working at the museum as Chief Curator Emerita, completing the catalogue raisonné of the prints of Louise Bourgeois (MoMA has an archive devoted to the artist’s printed work.) …Read More

Printed Bodies and the Materiality of Early Modern Prints

Figs 1, 2, 3. Lucas Kilian, Catoptri Microcosmici (Visio Prima, Visio Secunda, Visio Tertia) (1613), three anatomy broadsides composed of engraving and etching on ivory laid paper, discolored to cream, cut and joined with paper components, laid down on letterpress printed ivory laid paper, and mounted on cream wove paper. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Dr. Ira Frank, 1944.461, 1944.462 and 1944.521.

In 1613, the Augsburg engraver Lucas Kilian produced a set of three broadsheets of human anatomy that are some of the most intricate early examples of interactive prints extant. Composed of several layers of engraving, letterpress and etching that were cut, stacked, and glued together as liftable flaps, these prints allowed the viewer to dissect male and female corpses as a didactic exercise. …Read More