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Exhibitions | Past

Medium as Muse: Woodcuts and the Modern Book
February 21 through May 11, 2014


Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)
From Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf (Richmond: The Hogarth Press, 1921)
Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987
The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. PML 136392. Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2013. © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett.

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The art and craft of the woodcut was a source of inspiration for a small, influential group of European and American artists whose work helped shape the modern book in the decades immediately preceding and following the turn of the twentieth century. Though stylistically diverse, the creative expressions by wood engravers during this period—sometimes referred to as the woodcut revival—drew attention to the medium's decorative and typographic qualities, its associations with religious, primitive, and popular imagery, and potential for narrative through the invention of the wordless novel in woodcuts. What began as a response to nineteenth-century technologies that had changed the nature of illustration and printed matter became a platform for shaping a visual vernacular of modernity that redirected the course of the modern book. Works on view, drawn from the Morgan's collections, survey illustrated publications from 1890 to 1935, contextualizing them within their idealized past—in touchstones of medieval and Renaissance book design—and mapping potential trajectories in experimental animation, the fine press, and works by graphic artists today.

This exhibition is made possible by the Charles E. Pierce, Jr. Fund for Exhibitions, Fern and Hersh Cohen, the Ricciardi Family Exhibition Fund, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Robert Dance.

Related Programs:

Discussion
Art Talk: Contemporary Responses to the Woodcut Revival
Wednesday, April 2, 6:30 p.m.

Film
O Brother Man: The Life and Art of Lynd Ward
Friday, March 28, 7 p.m.

Family Program
Making Art in Reverse: Printing for the Family
Saturday, March 15, 2–4 p.m.

Adult Workshop
Introduction to Woodcut: Hands-on for Adults
Friday, April 18, 6–9 p.m.

Gallery Talk
Medium as Muse: Woodcuts and the Modern Book
Friday, March 7, 6:30 p.m.

Between the Lines Tour
Medium as Muse: Woodcuts and the Modern Book
Saturday, April 5, 11 a.m.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.