The Museum's collection of drawings and prints—one of the most comprehensive and distinguished of its kind in the world—began with a gift of 670 works from Cornelius Vanderbilt, a Museum trustee, in 1880. Today, its vast holdings, notable for an exceptional breadth and depth, comprise more than seventeen thousand drawings, 1.2 million prints, and twelve thousand illustrated books created in Western Europe and America, principally from the fifteenth century to the present.
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015
In my December 30 post "Crown the Kunstkammer!" I challenged readers to suggest objects that would make worthy additions to the Kunstkammer, or chamber of wonders, in the exhibition Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague. Cheers to all who participated! Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, Spranger's patron and the founder of the Prague Kunstkammer, would have found these additions tantalizing. I thank you for the stimulating ideas you contributed both in the comments on the post and on Facebook, and would like to highlight a few of my favorite submissions.
Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
A Kunstkammer, or chamber of wonders, was the ancestor of today's public museum. We have royalty to thank for its inception; rulers such as Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Prague (1552–1612) spent a great deal of time and money collecting precious objects for enjoyment and study in their palaces, and they kept these objects in rooms designed specifically to hold them. The exhibition Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague (on view through February 1, 2015) features a miniature Kunstkammer that offers the flavor and spirit of Rudolf's collection and arrangement, but you may have noticed that we left a few open spaces.
Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014
One of the great strengths of the Met is its extraordinary staff. In January, one of our legendary curators, Drue Heinz Chairman of Drawings and Prints George Goldner, is stepping down, and we made a special video to mark the impact of his twenty-two-year career here.
Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Given to the Museum in 1965 by LIFE magazine's creative director of general promotion, Jay W. Cheek, these posters—on view in the current installation in gallery 690 through December 8—were made as part of a campaign for the Pacific Northwest called "Signs of Adolescence."
Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014
Did you know that until 1992, Drawings and Prints were two separate departments within the Museum? Behind the scenes, there are many physical reminders of this earlier era, including separate storerooms, separate study rooms, and staff offices spread over two floors. However, both in the public galleries as well as conceptually, these two areas of the collection are now wholly integrated, allowing for a richer understanding of how works on paper were made and used.
Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014
A selection of ten drawings by Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863) is now on view in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery. The display features several highlights from a recent gift of forty-three Delacroix drawings from the collection of Mrs. Karen B. Cohen that focus on the artist's Moroccan subjects. Many of these works were inspired by Delacroix's journey to North Africa in 1832—including studies related to his painting of The Sultan of Morocco and His Entourage, animal drawings such as a ferocious tiger, and figure studies of Arab peoples and costumes.
Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014
Well known for the outstanding storytelling of his cycles of paintings, the Renaissance artist Vittore Carpaccio (1460/66?–1525/26) was also a prolific draftsman. Four of the artist's drawings are part of the Met's collection and currently on view in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery.
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
"…how dismal is progress without publicity…individuals love more to bask in the sunshine of popularity than they do to improve in some obscure intellectual shade. Merit is no object, conspicuity all."
—Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of printed ephemera in the Department of Drawings and Prints includes over six thousand "tobacco cards" from the late 1800s that depict actresses of various levels of celebrity. Twenty-seven of these cards—which were inserted in cigarette packs and intended to be collected and traded much like baseball cards—advertise Daisy Murdoch, a mid-level burlesque actress of the 1880s. She constituted what we might call a "one-hit wonder" today; she was recognized by the public almost solely for her role as Cupid in the Bijou Opera Company's traveling production of Orpheus and Eurydice (1883–85). Murdoch's cards present a clear example of the dissemination of imagery and commodification of celebrity during this unique moment in print culture and theater history.
Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014
Architect Josef Hoffman, painter Koloman Moser, and textile industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) in 1903 as a cooperative for artists and artisans. The Wiener Werkstätte began publishing postcards in 1907 and continued until the beginning of World War I. The postcards were among the least expensive or luxurious of the Wiener Werkstätte's products, which included furnishings for the homes of Viennese aristocrats. Most of the designs were intended solely for the postcard format, while a few were reproductions of earlier paintings.
Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014
The year 2014 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of Albrecht Dürer's Melencolia I (1514), a masterpiece of engraving whose imagery has fascinated artists, historians, scientists, and mathematicians for centuries. In honor of this occasion, a small display of Melencolia and several works it influenced is on view through July 14 in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery.