CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Storytelling – The Narrative Power of Printmaking

Exhibition: 15 October 2023 - 28 April 2024

The advent of printmaking in the fifteenth century revolutionized the dissemination of images. Whereas in the past, for example, altarpieces and paintings were only accessible to a select audience, the new mediums of the woodcut and copperplate engraving suddenly made it possible to produce images relatively quickly, cheaply, and in large editions.

Lucas van Leyden (1489/1494–1533), The Milkmaid, 1510
Draiflessen Collection, Mettingen

This exhibition shows how printmaking, with its particular narrative form, helped to make images and the stories they contained accessible to a wider public. Motifs and depictions were increasingly devoted to profane themes, even though the artists and art of the time were still strongly influenced by religion. What purpose did these profane images serve, what zeitgeist do they reflect, and how did the artists manage to convey not only an image but also a message to viewers of the time on just a few square centimeters of paper? While these viewers understood all the hints in the visual language very well, this knowledgeable seeing is often missing today.