Prints and Privacy
@ Smart Museum of Art
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue Chicago, IL 60637
Opening Thursday, June 30th, from 5PM - 8PM
On view through Monday, August 8th
Prints and Privacy is organized by University of Chicago students, this exhibition examines the ways in which printmaking was closely associated with the private sphere in Europe between 1500 and 1900.
When one considers prints—whether woodcuts, etchings or engravings—the public nature of mass production and distribution often comes to mind. Easily replicated and widely disseminated, prints are often associated with unrestricted visibility.
However, prints have also been enjoyed in private for centuries. Because of their portability and relatively small size, prints could easily be collected and enjoyed in the intimacy of the private sphere. This private consumption facilitated a space for artistic exploration of diverse subject matters; both the making and collecting of prints were ways of fashioning identity. Printmakers cultivated an artistic personality through choices of style, subject matter, and medium. For the buyers who then collected these works, amassing a print collection was akin to forming a private identity. Print owners found meaning and personal validation through collecting.
Drawn from the Smart Museum’s collection, the 15 prints in this exhibition engage with many different interests and subjects: from political unrest to religion, from artistic inspiration to the darker sides of human behavior. Each of these fragile works survives because it was valued by collectors, and each continues to resonate today.
This exhibition was organized by Hilary Barker, Caroline House, Patrick James, Maya Landau, and Luning Zhang, University of Chicago students who participated in the course Prints and Privacy taught by Anne Leonard, Smart Museum Curator and Associate Director of Academic Initiatives.
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