Exhibition Explores Modern-Day Printing Roots – printmaker Jacques Callot

Exhibition Explores Modern-Day Printing Roots – printmaker Jacques Callot – Brief Article

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.–In a world of giclees and state-of-the-art, cutting-edge printing technology, it’s easy to forget our roots. But at the Norton Museum of Art, a new exhibition entitled “Innovations in Printmaking: The Works of Jacques Callot,” takes us back to the 17th century and to one of the originators of modern-day print-making.

This exhibition explores the technically innovative etchings of the French printmaker Jacques Callot (1592-1635). Selected from a collection of more than 200 prints recently donated by David J. Patten to the Norton Museum of Art, the exhibit is organized by the museum.

Trained in Italy early in life, Callot revolutionized printmaking techniques with his advancement of hard-ground etching techniques. In this process, a varnish is spread over the surface of a copper plate. When dry, the printmaker can scratch delicate lines and fine details into this hardened varnish that are then etched into the copper plate by immersing it in an acid bath.

This etching process allowed Callot to produce small-scale prints of extraordinary finish–many of the works in the exhibition measure no more that two or three inches across. Despite their diminutive size, Callot’s compositions often include architectural elements and natural settings that are more commonly associated with pictorial designs of much greater dimensions.

Callot used his newly discovered hardground etching process to produce a vast array of imagery. He also often produced his works in series, executing several prints in similar style and format to develop a narrative or to illustrate diverse aspects of early 17th century life. The selection of prints in the exhibition surveys both secular and religious themes, both sacred and profane imagery being common to Callot’s work.

Callot’s subjects encompass not only lighthearted theatrical figures based on the Italian Commedia dell’Arte within the series “Les caprices” (1622), but also horrific depictions of battle and turmoil within the series “The Miseries of War”(1633). Further engravings and etchings in the exhibition illustrate New Testament scenes in print series devoted to “The Passion” (1618), “The Penitents” (1632), and the”Prodigal Son” (1639). Callot’s imagery reveals the tragic and humorous elements of European culture in the early 1600s.

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