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LOS ANGELES—The Getty Research Institute’s vaults hold rare and unique collections in art history and visual culture from around the world, including more than 27,000 prints ranging from the Renaissance to the present. This collection, which is consistently enhanced by new acquisitions, forms a rich and compelling overview of printmaking techniques and processes and includes etching, engraving, mezzotint, and lithography.

From April 7 through September 2, 2012, standout examples of recent print acquisitions will be on view in the exhibition The Getty Research Institute: Recent Print Acquisitions.

“For this exhibition, we have opened the vaults to showcase the range and quality of the prints that the Getty Research Institute acquires,” said Thomas Gaehtgens, Director of the Getty Research Institute (GRI). “From world-renowned masterpieces to lesser-known, but equally impressive treasures, this grouping of prints illustrates how our thoughtful and comprehensive collecting is driven by both aesthetics and research potential. By collecting in this way, and by placing the prints within the larger context of special collections rare books, sketchbooks, and photographs, we aim to encourage fresh approaches to the history of printmaking.”

Featuring some of the finest works from the beginning of the 1500s through the late 1900s, the exhibition highlights the strength of the GRI’s print collection in areas such as portraits of artists, landscapes, color prints and festival prints. The Getty Research Institute: Recent Print Acquisitions also underscores the GRI’s unique approach to print collecting. Print acquisitions are part of the GRI’s special collections which also include manuscripts, sketchbooks, rare books, photographs, artist books and archives of artists, dealers, and architects and, in addition to their rarity and aesthetic value, each print has important research value and is considered in terms of the narrative of art history.

“The prints we collect serve as both works of art and historical documents that help us understand the history of printmaking and print collecting as well as the oeuvres of individual artists or collectors,” said Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute.

In a little under 30 years, the GRI has accumulated select masterpieces in the history of printmaking, as well as lesser-known works that are technically and thematically fascinating, including prints by masters such as Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720-1778). Dürer’s classically inspired suite of prints, Life of the Virgin, 1511 (acquired in 2011), and his exquisite etching, The Desperate Man, 1515 (acquired in 2010) will be on view in the exhibition as well as two other recently acquired woodcuts by Dürer.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s first edition Prisons, ca. 1749-1750, presents the kind of technical and formal innovations that have captivated print collectors, writers, and artists for centuries; the Getty Research Institute’s copy (acquired in 2007) is an exciting discovery in exceptionally good condition.

The exhibition also features a monumental 12-plate reproductive print after the Last Judgment by the so-called “French Michelangelo,” Jean Cousin (French, ca. 1522–ca. 1594), engraved by Pieter de Jode the Elder (Flemish, 1570–1634) in 1615. Dedicated to Louis XIII (reigned 1610–43), the engraving was commissioned shortly after he ascended the throne. De Jode’s extraordinary engraving was first published in his native city of Antwerp and was reissued in Paris in the early eighteenth century.

In the early 19th century, acclaimed architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (German, 1781–1841) and painter-stage designer Carl Wilhelm Gropius (1793–1870) created thirty printed opera set designs. The GRI’s album of set designs for operas, including Mozart’s The Magic Flute was specially compiled for Duke Wilhelm VIII of Brunswick (reigned 1830–1884) and many of the aquatints underwent additional hand coloring to match Schinkel’s and Gropius’ original drawings. It was acquired by the GRI in 2011.

Among the more modern prints on view is Odilon Redon’s mind-bending symbolist dream scene Light, 1893. Redon (French, 1840–1916) was known for technically exquisite dark pictures exemplifying anxiety in the modern age.

In addition, the exhibition also features selected prints from a 2011 acquisition: the Bauhaus-Drucke, a portfolio by the Weimar Bauhaus masters, with prints by Lyonel Feininger, Lothar Schreyer, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer 

The Getty Research Institute: Recent Print Acquisitions is curated by Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute, and Louis Marchesano, curator of prints and drawings at the Getty Research Institute.

The GRI Print Advisory Council

In 2011, the GRI formed the Print Advisory Council, a group of print experts from around the world dedicated to developing the GRI’s print collection and to furthering the understanding of the history and future of print collecting. The current members of the Print Advisory Council are: James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, who is a specialist in French prints; Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute; Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute; Louis Marchesano, curator of prints and drawings at the Getty Research Institute; Peter Parshall, former Curator of Old Master Prints at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Richard A. Simms; and Henri Zerner, Harvard University.

In April 2012, the Print Council of America, a national organization for print experts, historians and curators, to which many members of the GRI Print Advisory Council belong, will convene their semi-annual meeting at the Getty Center.

IMAGE AT TOP: Set design for The Magic Flute, 1822-27. Carl Friedrich Thiele (German, ca. 1780-1836), engraver, after a design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (German, 1781–1841). Getty Research Institute. 

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library— housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier—is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library’s special collections include rare books, artists’ journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.

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