RAMM’s first exhibition on printmaking will showcase hidden gems from the museum’s collection.
Step into a world where images, once a rare privilege confined to the elite circles of wealth and education, become accessible to everyone. A multifaceted selection of forty-five works on paper and print matrices will lead audiences on a captivating journey through time, from 16th-century woodcuts to the cutting-edge creations of the 21st century.
Pressing Images: prints from Exeter’s fine art collection will uncover the roots of printmaking in early modern Europe. The first section of the exhibition will illustrate to visitors the results of the dawn of the revolution brought about by the introduction of the printing press, which democratised art by making images accessible and affordable for the first time. This ground-breaking invention paved the way for mass-produced images, transforming art from an exclusive luxury into a shared cultural experience. Visitors will be able to see some of RAMM's treasures such as Adam and Eve, after Albrecht Dürer (1504), and one of the earliest surviving woodblocks by Jost Amman (1539-1591).
Visitors will enter the transformative era where printmaking flourished in the hands of visionaries like Jacob and Joris Hoefnagel, the Flemish artists famous for their botanical illustrations. The 16th- and 17th-century artworks will showcase a fusion of religious and secular themes through the works of Jacques Callot, Lambrecht Hopfer, and Adriaen van Ostade.
In the second section, visitors will witness the birth of new printmaking techniques in the 18th and 19th centuries, including wood engraving, lithography, and photography. Artists like William Hogarth and George Cruickshank used prints as a powerful medium for social commentary, such as in the former's The Sleeping Congregation. By contrast, Samuel Cousins, with his mezzotints, became famous for reproducing painted works by renowned artists such as Joshua Reynolds.
As the 20th century unfolded, printmaking faced new challenges, with the rise of photography threatening to overshadow printmaking. Dive into a selection of prints that captures the spirit of experimentation and the rise of influential female artists, like Devon-born Dorothea Wight leading the way.
Printmaking has thrived in the 21st century, and the objects on show will demonstrate that printmaking has become a central component of artists' creative expressions, no longer confined to traditional roles. RAMM's recent acquisitions by artists like Peter Randall-Page and Sarah Gillespie will illustrate the integration of interest in the preservation of the ephemeral beauty of the natural world and the use of traditional printmaking methods, such as mezzotint.
The exhibition will be an opportunity to delve into the varied world of printmaking techniques, from the ancient intaglio and relief methods to the planographic innovations of lithography and silkscreen printing. Visitors will discover how these techniques have evolved over centuries, influencing artistic production and shaping the visual narrative of our visual history.
Exeter City Council Deputy Leader Cllr Laura Wright said: ‘Exeter’s fine art collection is a treasure for the city, and I’m delighted that this exhibition of prints will allow visitors to enjoy this treasure once again. It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to see prints from masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Devon-born artists like Dorothea Wight.’
There will be a public workshop, led by Exhibition Curator Chiara Betti, for everyone interested in exploring the exhibition and its themes more in-depth. In the shop, visitors will find bespoke postcard packs with exhibition highlights and summaries.