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Bruegel to Freud: Prints from the Courtauld Gallery

Bruegel to Freud: Prints from the Courtauld Gallery (Paperback)

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Synopsis

The catalogue opens with Andrea Mantegna's ambitious engraving of The Flagellation of Christ (around 1465-70), in which the Italian Renaissance artist powerfully reinvents this often depicted Passion scene. By contrast, the grand scale of a ten-part engraving after Michelangelo's celebrated Last Judgment by French printmaker Nicolas Beatrizet exemplifies the ability of a print to reproduce a monumental work of art in spectacular fashion. Subjects of Christian iconography dominate 15th- and 16th-century printmaking but from early on were complemented by secular topics, with printmakers catering for a demand amongst collectors for new imagery. A superb example is Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Rabbit Hunt (1560), the only print known to be executed by the artist himself and one of a group of master prints bequeathed to the collection by Count Antoine Seilern in 1978. Bruegel chose the etching technique whereby its relative freedom and ease is more closely comparable to drawing, allowing him to render a scene with remarkable naturalism. The possibilities of printmaking greatly expanded in subsequent centuries.

Prints could record historical events such as battles or pageants, as in the exquisite etchings of Jacques Callot and Stefano della Bella. Canaletto's views of 18th-century Venice play wilful games with the city's geography and are shown alongside the striking architectural inventions of his contemporary Piranesi. The 19th century in France saw avant-garde artists embracing printmaking, with Edouard Manet's homage to Old Masters, Paul Gauguin's revival of the woodcut and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's brilliant adoption of the newer technique of lithography for his evocative depictions of Parisian entertainment such as his highly dynamic Jockey from Samuel Courtauld's collection. In the 20th century Pablo Picasso's and Henri Matisse's tireless experimentation with print techniques helped ensure the vitality of printmaking in the art of their time. The catalogue concludes with prints by Lucian Freud, now widely acknowledged as a modern master of the medium, and by more recent work by Chris Ofili, whose prints, both figurative and abstract, continued to reinvent printmaking in the 21st century.

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