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Bruegel to Freud: Prints from The Courtauld Gallery

September 12, 2014

ArtsGroup ExhibitionPrintmaking | by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), The Jockey, 1899, Lithograph, 51.6 x 36.3 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), The Jockey, 1899, Lithograph, 51.6 x 36.3 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London

 

The Courtauld Gallery has an expansive collection of over 24,000 prints dating back as early as the fifteenth century, so as you might expect, the comparatively minuscule selection of gems shown here in the Bruegel to Freud exhibition are some of the most exquisite prints in existence today. The show spans a variety of printmaking techniques such as etchings, drypoints, lithographs and wood engravings from 1470 to 2002. For any fans of printmaking, watching the progression of the medium alone is immensely interesting.

 

It’s also not surprising, given the extensive print collection amassed by the Courtauld, that there are a surprisingly large number of famous artists here. Some such as Hogarth are well known for their print making, there are a number of other prints however, which are rather interesting and rare examples of less obvious painters experimenting with the medium; Cézanne, Manet, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse and of course Freud all share the gallery wall space.

 

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Smoking fire, 1749-1760, Etching, 54.5 x 41.3 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Smoking fire, 1749-1760, Etching, 54.5 x 41.3 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London

 

A medium often sidelined as a means of replication used historically to print media such as newspapers and book illustrations, working with printmaking techniques seems to give the artist a degree of freedom to be more experimental and playful. As a result there are a number of very interesting compositions and ideas explored which give you a pictorial insight into the thought processes of the artists here who might ordinarily turn out more considered, laborious, painted works.

 

With pieces such as a breathtaking ten-part engraving after Michelangelo’s Last Judgement by Nicolas Béatrizet and Smoking Fire, a superb example of one of Piranesi’s prints, with signature creeping staircases amid cavernous archways (a possible inspiration of M. C. Escher’s) if you see only one printmaking exhibition this year, this should be it.

 

Bruegel to Freud:  Prints from The Courtauld Gallery is the Courtauld Gallery’s Summer Showcase and finishes on 21st September, standard tickets £6. For more information go to courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/exhibitions/2014/prints/index.shtml

 

Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor

 

Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Blond Girl, 1985, Etching, 690 x 542 mm, The Courtauld Gallery, London, Frank Auerbach Gift, 2012, © Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Art Library
Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Blond Girl, 1985, Etching, 690 x 542 mm, The Courtauld Gallery, London, Frank Auerbach Gift, 2012, © Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Art Library