Women graphic artists in the 17th century
Piranesi´s salon, Lobkowicz Palace, until 25. 6. 2018
The new temporary exhibition uncovers art of women graphic artists.
History of graphic art
The woodcut (relief printing) is the oldest graphic technique. People knew this technique during the Middle Ages. Religious amulets were printed this way in China in the 6th century and in the 13th century the technique began to include woodblock prints on cloth. The first woodcut in Europe developed in the middle of the 15th century and the theme was Christianity. Prints were colored and began to replace painted miniatures in manuscripts. The first artists of the woodcut are not known, as they started to sign prints much later, in the second half of the 16th century. The next graphic technique to develop was engraving (intaglio printing). Engraving allows much finer lines than the woodcut. The creator usually pushes a sharp rod across a metal plate, although it is also possible to etch using
a copper drill. The author works pigment into the engraved or etched space after that and uses a press to reprint the image on a piece of paper. Artists made etchings before Rembrandt (1606–1669) but he was the first one who made a masterpiece. During that time a book on the etching technique was published and therefore artists used it from the second half of the 17th century onward.
Magdalena Van de Passe (1600 Cologne, Germany – 1638 Utrecht, The Netherlands) was a Dutch engraver and member of the Van de Passe family of artists who originated from Cologne in Germany and were active in the northern Netherlands. She specialized in landscapes and portraits. She married the minor artist Frederick van Bevervoorden in 1634, after which she stopped engraving permanently, even though her husband died in 1636. She primarily worked alone but also cooperated with her father and two brothers. Her first signed work dates to 1614 when she was only 14, and therefore we can safely say that she exceeded her brothers in her studies by at least two years. She taught Anna Maria van Schurman (the Dutch painter, engraver and poet, and advocate of female education). Van de Passe was granted a patent from the States General for the manufacture of sleeping caps printed with engravings of popular figures, and which were very successful in their time.
Johanna Sibylla Küsel (1646 Augsburg, Germany – 1717 Augsburg) came from a family of artists. Her father was the engraver Melchior Küsel and he taught her this profession. She specialized in the use of the copper drill. Johanna married a student of her father, Johann Ulrich Kraus. Afterwards, she worked together with her husband. She signed her work after the wedding with her married name Johanna Sibylla Krausin. She created only a few engravings after her own paintings.
The biblical Parable of the Prodigal Son tells of a man who claimed his inheritance during the lifetime of his father. He went into the world to enjoy life extravagantly. When his money dried up, he became poor and hungry. Only then did he realize how brash and inhumane his behavior was toward his father and family values. He went back with humility and though he thought he would no longer be considered his father’s son, his father accepted him with open arms.
The author used symbols to refer to the situations and behavior of people in her series. These striking symbols vary in their ability to agitate the viewer. On the press below, we can see a defecating dog in a room where the company entertains and indulges to an incredible degree. This way of criticizing people’s behavior was uncommon, and it was of course for social reasons that viewers felt offended by such a confrontation. The extreme criticism of a certain way of life can be seen notably in William Hogarth’s painting A Rake’s Progress (1732-1734) and above all, in his graphic work.
The Spring – „Everything that blooms is gleaming with joy.“
copper engraving, 15,8 cm x 23,1 cm