Exhibition | The Enchanted World of German Romantic Prints

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 25, 2013

Though primarily a nineteenth-century show, this exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will appeal to many readers; it comes on the heels of Landscape, Heroes, and Folktales: German Romanticism at The British Museum last year. From the press release:

The Enchanted World of German Romantic Prints
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 21 September — 29 December 2013

Curated by John W. Ittmann

Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, “Large Oak Tree Enclosed by a Plank Fence,” ca. 1802-4, etching with masked plate tone, 12 15/16 x 17 1/8 in. Copyright 2013 Philadelphia Museum of Art

Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, Large Oak Tree Enclosed by a Plank Fence, ca. 1802–4, etching with masked plate tone, 13 x 17 inches, in the manner of the Dutch artist Anthonie Waterloo, 1609–1690 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, prints became widely available to growing and increasingly enthusiastic audiences throughout Europe and the United States. The Enchanted World of German Romantic Prints tells an important chapter in this story. This exhibition, comprising 125 etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts, will explore prints by artists from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from 1770 to 1850, and how printmaking reflected the profound cultural changes that swept across the German-speaking regions of Central Europe during this period. The works in the exhibition represent the many artistic enthusiasms of the age: the Romantic fascination with wild, untamed landscapes teeming with life; the intimate pleasures of family scenes and friendship portraits; the rediscovery of ancient Nordic sagas and traditional fairy tales; and the synthesis of visual art, poetry, and music. The Museum’s encyclopedic collection of prints from this period is the finest in the country and includes rare prints unseen even in the finest European collections.

German Romantic Prints will feature major prints by important artists of the German Romantic era such Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, and Philipp Otto Runge. The revival of interest in regional folk culture and fairy tales provided a rich source of material for artists of the time, including Ludwig Emil Grimm, the younger brother of the famous Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. His print The Boy Turned into a Fawn, Comforted by His Sister and Watched over by an Angel (1819) was used as the frontispiece of an early edition of his brothers’ famous tales. By the 1830s advances in technology allowed for the printing of large editions, and local art societies began to issue annual prints for members. Two large and elaborate etchings by Eugen Napoleon Neureuther illustrate the tales of Sleeping Beauty (1836) and Cinderella (1847) and attest to the continuing popularity of these stories throughout the era.

Caspar David Friedrich, one of the most important German artists of his generation, made only a handful of prints in his career. German Romantic Prints will include his rare woodcut, Woman Seated under a Spider’s Web (1803–4), a quintessential image of the Romantic era: a young woman seated between a pair of barren trees in dense undergrowth, seemingly lost in melancholy meditation on the brevity of life.

In the early 1800s, German artists and art lovers flocked to Dresden to admire Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, a painting represented in this exhibition by an engraving that was once as widely admired as the painting itself. The Sistine Madonna provided the inspiration for Runge’s visionary masterpiece, The Times of Day (Morning, Day, Evening, Night) (1805). This ambitious allegorical series depicting the cycle of life was originally conceived of as a set of mural-sized painted panels, but was realized only in the form of four large etchings, a rare first edition of which will be displayed. These large prints are bordered by delicate ornamental arabesques composed of intricate plant forms, music-playing infants, and cherubs.

An overview of a vital chapter in the history of European printmaking, German Romantic Prints illuminates one of the richest yet least known areas of the Museum’s collection. A selection of prints presented in display cases will permit enjoyment of the more finely detailed prints up close.

Review | A Selection of Digital Humanities Projects

Posted in journal articles, resources, reviews by Editor on September 25, 2013

The current issue of Renaissance Quarterly includes Michael Ullyot’s assessment of five digital resources, several of which are relevant to eighteenth-century studies:

Michael Ullyot, “Review Essay: Digital Humanities Projects,” Renaissance Quarterly 66 (Fall 2013): 93747.

673531.cover“Are databases the defining genre of the twenty-first century? This question was at the core of a debate in 2007 over the nature of the Walt Whitman Archive in PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America). With digital resources now firmly established as an essential scholarly research tool, the question remains: what status do we afford databases relative to other forms of publication, like editions or monographs? The question is pertinent not just to tenure and promotion decisions, as the MLA Committee on Information Technology recently advocated, but more fundamentally to the circulation and provocation of ideas.1 If databases help us to interact with texts and cultural objects differently, enabling us to interpret them in ways we
could not otherwise do, how do they differ from monographs or journal articles? . . .” (937)

1. “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media.” http://www.mla.org/guidelines_evaluation_digital; accessed 17 January 2013.

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· Mapping the Republic of Letters, which draws on the University of Oxford’s Electronic Enlightenment data, a collection containing over 50,000 letters.

· The Map of Early Modern London, a digital atlas of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century London (Ullyot references, in passing, Locating London’s Past, which is based on John Rocque’s 1746 map).

· 1641 Depositions Project, which collects 8,000 manuscript accounts of the 1641 Irish rebellion of Catholic gentry against Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.

· The Medici Archive Project, which aims to catalog the Medici Archival Collection (Mediceo del Principato), a collection of over four million letters written between 1537 and 1743. To date, approximately 10 percent of the archive is included within the database, though Ullyot explains a number of new, “promising” features aimed at making the platform more efficient and more interactive.

· Early English Books Online, a collection of texts published between 1473 and 1700. “What makes EEBO truly innovative and interesting is the Text Creation Partnership (TCP), under which the University of Michigan and Oxford University began in 1999 to convert these PDFs [created from microfilm copies of the books] into fully searchable texts. The TCP has focused on transcribing all 70,000 of the unique monographs in EEBO’s collection. These transcriptions are cross-linked to the page images they are taken from, so they are fully integrated into EEBO. At present, only members of the TCP consortium of libraries are able to access this resource, but it will ultimately pass into the public domain [starting in 2015 and finishing up in 2020]” (945).

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