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: Thursday, January 28, 2016
A longtime interest of renowned conjurer and collector Ricky Jay, Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739) was a master of calligraphy and micrography—a traditional art form dating to the late ninth century, in which minute lines of text are used to shape patterns or forms. However, what initially drew Jay to Buchinger was the latter's unparalleled legerdemain. As a magician of the sleight-of-hand variety himself, Jay was fascinated by Buchinger's range of unusual entertainments and his ability, despite having no hands, to grip and manipulate objects between his two appendages. The exhibition Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger's Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay, draws primarily from Ricky Jay's collection, and explores for the first time the work of the "Little Man of Nuremberg."
Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015
The current exhibition Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620, on view through January 10, 2016, celebrates the first hundred years of the production of a new genre of popular booklets that distributed designs for textile decorations all over Europe. These textile pattern books were first printed in the 1520s, about twenty years after ornament and design had emerged as autonomous and very popular subjects in prints and books. This significant development is illustrated in the exhibition by a case study focused on a very special series of prints known as The Six Knots (figs. 1 and 2).
Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Metropolitan Museum's recent exhibition Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends featured paintings and watercolors by the celebrated American artist John Singer Sargent. Less well-known is the fact that the artist was also active as a printmaker. In 1895, he made a fascinating group of lithographs as he prepared to send one work to a large overview exhibition, held at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Paris, which celebrated the hundredth anniversary of this particular print medium. Examples of Sargent's experimental lithographs were later donated to the Met, in 1950, by the artist's sister Violet Ormond, and are currently on view in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery.
Posted: Monday, November 2, 2015
The 1880s witnessed an explosion in the production of souvenir cards in the United States. Among the first companies to take advantage of the marketing potential of these collectible cards were tobacco companies such as Allen & Ginter, Duke, and Goodwin, though producers of coffee, chewing gum, and other products also inserted souvenir cards into the packaging of their output.
As printed-ephemera collector Jefferson R. Burdick explained in The American Card Catalogue, published in 1960, collecting souvenir cards became so popular in this decade that tobacco companies issued albums of souvenir cards "intended to replace the individual cards if the smoker so desired, or at least enable him to own the entire collection of designs without the difficulty attendant to obtaining all the individual cards in a set."
Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2015
A pivotal scene in the 2014 film Million Dollar Arm shows John Hamm's character, sports agent J.B. Bernstein, standing in an office directly in front of a pair of poster-sized photographs of old baseball teams. While the movie follows the factual story of Bernstein and his discovery of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel—young amateur baseball players from India—the photographs suggest another story steeped in the history of the sport, one that channels the careers of equally ambitious men dedicated to the game.
To some viewers these images would have escaped unnoticed, but their familiarity caught my eye as they are part of the Met's Jefferson R. Burdick Collection of Printed Ephemera—specifically series T200, Baseball Teams, published in 1913 by the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company to promote their Fatima "Turkish blend" cigarettes. Significant in subject matter, history, and medium, these large black-and-white prints shown in the film display the team roster for the Chicago Cubs (above) and the Boston Red Sox (below).
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015
The Major League Baseball playoffs begin tomorrow, and for fans everywhere, there is a lot to be excited about. It's the second season, in a manner of speaking, and the ten teams who made the cut now have their eyes set on championship glory. In just a few weeks the World Series will begin, about the same time as the next exhibition of the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection will go on view here at the Met.
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Today marks the launch of the new section of the Museum's website dedicated to the vast, diverse, and often surprising ephemera collection of Jefferson R. Burdick (1900–1963). The trade and postcards, which make up the bulk of the collection of over three hundred thousand objects, span in time from the 1890s to the last months of Burdick's life. An avid collector, Burdick dedicated his life to amassing, organizing, and cataloguing his collection. In addition to the acclaimed collection of over thirty thousand baseball cards—the most in a public collection outside of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York—Burdick's collection includes a dizzying array of trade cards that were produced by tobacco, candy, and gum companies, as well as bakeries, clothing shops, and milliners, to name just a few types of the American businesses that adopted the form as a means of advertising their products.
Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015
In the late eighteenth century, when the advent of Neoclassicism had many painters turning to subjects inspired by ancient Rome, the ability to render drapery on the human figure became an essential skill, as seen in a group of drapery studies on view in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery through September 28. Just as it had in antiquity, both the challenge and the appeal of the subject lay in the way the drapery both covered and revealed the human form.
Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Currently on view in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery are works on paper by Lucian Freud and Brice Marden. Although these artists are widely acclaimed for their work in other media, prints play a critical role in their oeuvres. Both artists avidly explored possibilities for printmaking, often developing ideas and innovations that they then applied to work in other media. Their engagement with printmaking—etching in particular—was not only important for the artists, but also had a significant impact on the medium itself by offering up new possibilities.
Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Almost until the day of his death in 1990 at the advanced age of ninety-seven, Romain de Tirtoff, better known as Erté, was a frequent and much-loved guest of New York City. His visits, which were usually marked by dinners and parties in his honor, were often listed with exclamation marks in the society pages of the New York Times, and an exclusive birthday celebration was hosted by the Circle Gallery in Soho in honor of his ninety-fifth birthday.