The Norton Museum of Art a few miles away from me in West Palm Beach is my oasis of cultural and artistic stimulation. After their fantastic Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit, they come back with a small but powerful exhibit of three fundamental printmakers of all time.
Albert Dürer is one of the Renaissance’s top artists, despite the fact that he was not Italian, but German! His draftsmanship is just phenomenal. The Norton gave out little plastic looking glasses so we could appreciate the detail in the prints. It is simply mindboggling! I was particularly impressed with St. Jerome in his study. Legend has it that Dürer’s dad was a doormaker and so Dürer’s logo -by the way, he is accredited with “inventing” the logo- is a door. My friend and super well-read Irina mentions the same story but instead of his dad being a doormaker, he was a chalice maker, and the logo represents an upside-down chalice! Take your pick.
Next in line was Rembrandt. Although the exhibit only had a handful of his prints, they got the point across of Rembrandt’s formidable talent. Maybe he does not have the detailed precision of Dürer, but what he might lack in technique (which to a layperson like me is impossible to appreciate), he makes up for in expressiveness. His Christ coming down from the cross has this hand sticking out of the darkness which could very well be any of our hands. It is in fact, a very “Picasso” hand, like something out of the Guernika…
Speaking of Picasso, he is the third star in this exhibit. In the 20th C. Picasso was not so much concerned with the time-consuming detail, but with bold statements. For example, the colors on Bust of a Woman with Hat were simply blinding (granted the print belonged to Picasso’s print maker and he had kept it in top shape, but still).
So, here are three master printmakers representing the Renaissance, the Baroque, and whatever you want to call the late 20th century. But I felt a big gap, a lacuna. That gap was the late Enlightenment and Romanticism, and the printmaker that defined that era was Francisco de Goya. I missed him. Goya did four series of prints: Los Caprichos, Los Desastres de la Guerra, Los Disparates, and La Tauromaquia. In goya we get a lot of the detail work of Dürer and Rembrandt with the bold statements of Picasso. You see, the Enlightenment as I have written before is the hinge between the old world and the modern world. You can read my thoughts on that here.
But overall, this was a small but potent exhibit. Thank you sincerely to the Norton for pulling it off!