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New Print Exhibit Offers Look Inside Master’s Studio

Monday, February 15, 2010

RubensmainA new exhibit at the University of San Diego offers a fascinating look at how old master prints were used in a 17th-century European artist’s studio. Prints in the Artist’s Studio: Rubens’ Print Collection Reconstructed explores the collection of Peter Paul Rubens, who was known not only for his artistic genius but also for his collection of paintings, sculptures and antiquities.

Among the most influential and successful artists of the 17th century, Rubens “amassed an art colletion to rival those of the princes and kings for whom he often worked,” said Victoria Sancho Lobis, curator of USD’s Print Collection and Fine  Art Galleries. Much is known about the paintings he collected, but less so of the drawings and prints. The new exhibit offers the first reconstruction of the artist’s print collection. Comparative material presented in reproduction shows how these objects were studied and employed by Rubens and members of his studio.

The exhibit opened this month and runs until May 9 in the Robert and Karen Hoehn Family Galleries in Founders Hall.  It includes some 20 objects by artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius and Marcantonio Raimondi.

The exhibit “demonstrates the central role that prints played in Rubens’ training as an artist, in his development of a distinctive pictorial style and in the training of his workshop assistants,” Sancho Lobis said. “In many cases, Rubens studied prints of familiar subjects such as those taken from the Old and New Testaments or from classical mythology.”

For example, using Martin Schongauer’s Death of the Virgin (shown at right) “Rubens could adapt specific compositional devices from his predecessors — in this case Schongauer’s arrangements of figures around the Virgin’s bed,” Sancho Lobis explained. In other cases he studied prints to observe the use of symbolic motifs or decorative ornaments.

Centuries after Rubens, “the prints that he collected still exist to offer contemporary artists if not everything, certainly still a great deal to enhance their creative processes and broaden their visual frames of reference,”  she said.

The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibit this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Hoehn Galleries. Regular hours for the free exhibit are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and noon to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.  It is closed on university holidays.

— Liz Harman

Click here for more information about the exhibit or call (619) 260-4261.

Image caption credit: Martin Schöngauer, Death of the Virgin, ca. 1470 (detail), Engraving, 10 x 6 5/8 in. (25.4 x 16.83 cm) San Diego Museum of Art (Gift of Mrs. Saidie A. May) 1935:11.

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