CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Painted prints: the revelation of color in Northern Renaissance engravings, etchings and woodcuts

Exhibition: 14 February - 18 May 2003


Susan Dackerman.*

From the museum website

Featuring prints from European and American museums and private collections, some of which haven’t been seen for hundreds of years, Painted prints: the revelation of color in Northern Renaissance & Baroque engravings, etchings, & woodcuts is an extraordinary exhibition. Using new scientific and historical information, this groundbreaking exhibition explores the many questions surrounding painted prints.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, printmaking flourished, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands, leaving a legacy of refined and intricate black-and-white prints. Any colored prints from the period were presumed to have been altered centuries after the original black-and-white prints were produced. In recent years, however, scholars have determined that it was common practice to color prints at the time of their production.

According to Susan Dackerman, curator of prints, drawings and photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art and curator of the exhibition: "The 16th and 17th-century visual experience was filled with the colors of stained-glass windows, tapestries, frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, and oil paints." Her observation raised the question: Why wouldn’t prints bear the same brilliant colors? Dackerman spent years researching prints, materials, and print workshops throughout Europe and the United States to determine who did the coloring, when and where prints were colored, what materials and techniques were used, and why prints were colored. Her research showed that during the Renaissance most works of art were produced within a workshop structure in which different artists executed specialized tasks, including colored prints. Coloring a print was thus seen as an integral element augmenting the print’s expressive power, beauty, and meaning in the Renaissance and Baroque.

The works in the exhibition range from early devotional woodcuts to botanical and zoological prints and large wall decorations. On view for the first time in the United States is a colored version of D’ monumental Triumphal Arch, a 12-foot-high composite of 192 prints immortalizing the achievements of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Other highlights include magnificent images by Pieter Bruegel, Hans Burgkmair, Lucas Cranach, Hendrick Goltzius, and father and son print colorists Hans and Georg Mack.

Painted prints: the revelation of color in Northern Renaissance & Baroque engravings, etchings, & woodcuts is organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and features several works from the Saint Louis Art Museum and private St. Louis collections. It is generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. It is on view from February 14 through May 18 in Galleries 202, 217, and 218.


Painted prints: the revelation of color in Northern Renaissance and Baroque engravings, etchings and woodcuts
Susan Dackerman, with an essay by Thomas Primeau and catalogue entries by Deborah Carton, Susan Dackerman, Richard S. Field, Katherine Crawford Luber, Elizabeth Mansfield, Walter S. Melion, Thomas Primeau and Robert Wheaton
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2002-03 in Baltimore (The Baltimore Museum of Art)
and in 2003 in St. Louis (Saint Louis Museum of Art)
298 pp., 30 x 22.5 cm., completely illustrated in color
Baltimore (Baltimore Museum of Art) and University Park (Pennsylvania State University Press) 2002
ISBN 0-271-02234-5 (hardbound)
ISBN 0-271-02235-3 (softbound)

Other venue

Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art (Oct 6, 2002 – Jan 5, 2003).