"Prints throw open to their students with the most complete abandon the whole gamut of human life and endeavor, from the most ephemeral of courtesies to the loftiest pictorial presentation of man's spiritual aspirations." —William M. Ivins
This exhibition commemorates the centenary of the Department of Prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art by celebrating the astounding legacy of its founding curator, William Mills Ivins, and his brilliant protégé A. Hyatt Mayor. Together, during their combined fifty-year tenure, Ivins and Mayor amassed a collection of many hundreds of thousands of prints that is both encyclopedic in its scope and studied in its many areas of focus.
By drawing on its own vast holdings, this exhibition reveals how the Met's print collection was artfully constructed according to the vision of Ivins and Mayor—both social historians and amateur print specialists. The exhibition will show how the print collection of the Museum was meant to be like a library, composed from the beginning as a corpus of works (not all distinctly masterful works of art) that describe, in the most comprehensive way, man's aspirations. It will display the most beautiful, rare, and exceptional prints alongside the equally important popular and ephemeral works that were collected in the first fifty years of the department's history. The exhibition tells the story of this great American collection through prints by Andrea Mantegna, Marcantonio Raimondi, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacques Callot, Francisco de Goya, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Honoré Daumier, Edward Penfield, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, to name just a few artists in the exhibition.
The Power of Prints explores how the evolution of curatorial priorities—notably from purely aesthetic concerns to those of content and context—affected the building of the department's remarkable stock of etchings and engravings. The exhibition also, like Ivins and Mayor, approaches printed matter as the first entrée into the information age, as functional objects that were meant to spread information to an ever-widening public and, in turn, to reflect the changing aspects of any given society.
The exhibition is made possible by The Schiff Foundation.
The catalogue is made possible by the Drue E. Heinz Fund.