Print's Golden Age in 19th century England in Wallach Exhibit


Photograph: "The Last Match of the Season," a wood engraving from 1873, by Mary Ellen Edwards.

Photograph: Photograph of "Isabella Grace Maude and Clementina Maude", ca. 1863-64 by Clementine, Lady Hawarden.

Photograph: "The Black Brunswicker," a mixed-method engraving by John Everett Millais, 1864.

Photograph: Martin Meisel.

Prints and photographs from Victorian England are the subject of a new exhibition at Columbia opening Oct. 10 and continuing through Dec.16.

Ninety etchings, wood-engraved illustrations, reproductive engravings and photographs from the 1860s will be on view in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, located in Schermerhorn Hall on the Morningside campus. The exhibition, titled "The Post-Pre-Raphaelite Print: Etching, Illustration, Reproductive Engraving, and Photography in England in and around the 1860s," is open to the public from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Wednesday through Saturday; admission is free.

The period is regarded as a golden age of printmaking, said Allen Staley, professor of art history and leading authority on British art of the 18th and 19th centuries. "The print industry literally exploded during this decade," he said.

Staley and six of his graduate students assembled the exhibition, which includes loans from individuals and from the rich holdings of New York institutions, among them the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library. While celebrating the diversity of visual effects expressed through the four major printing techniques of the era, the exhibition also brings to public attention a sense of the extraordinary wealth of holdings in New York collections, said Staley, who noted that many of the prints have never been publicly displayed.

Included are works by John Everett Millais, James McNeill Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Carroll, many of which cast new light on the evolution in English art from the naturalism of the Pre-Raphaelites during the 1850s to the quasi-abstract concerns of Aestheticism of the 1870s. The exhibition examines the distinctive roles and interconnections of the four different forms of graphic art, which usually are collected, exhibited and studied in isolation from one another.

"The point of the exhibition is primarily to demonstrate the beauty and visual interest of these prints, which date from a time when commercial reproduction blossomed," said Professor Staley. "Usually the different types are studied apart. Their juxtaposition in an exhibition of this sort is virtually without precedent."

Rich in visual, art historical and literary interest, the exhibition includes works as diverse as Ludwig Gruner's line engraving of John Everett Millais's painting "Christ in the House of His Parents," which was savagely criticized when first exhibited for its earthy depiction of the Holy Family; John Tenniel's much-loved illustration for Alice in Wonderland, cartoons from Punch, and a wood engraving of American Civil War battle scenes from The Illustrated London News.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue written by students Martha M. Evans, Pamela M. Fletcher, Yaël Ksander, Lisa R. Leavitt, Jason M. Rosenfeld and Paul Tabor, with an introduction by Staley.


Columbia University Record -- October 6, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 5