Prints in the Martin Museum of Art’s considerable print collection are getting a new look — a first-time look in public for some — thanks to a class of Baylor University art history students.
Students of Baylor University art history lecturer Sean DeLouche tackled creation of a Martin Museum print exhibit as an assignment in DeLouche’s 15-week research seminar. They selected prints from the 18th and 19th century in the Martin’s holdings, researched those prints, then created an original thesis for each print, background research and informative display labels for a gallery show.
The result, “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Student Research at the Martin Museum, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Printmaking,” is on public display through Dec. 17 at the museum.
The exhibit draws its examples from what DeLouche called a golden age of printmaking, when new techniques and distribution took images once limited to specific places, such as drawing rooms of the elite, to viewers literally around the world. In some ways, it’s analogous to how the digital age has transformed today’s art and communications, he said.
Framed by the places images were now found — mass-produced catalogues, political broadsheets and publications, artwork marketed for the home — printed art found contexts for meaning and interpretation beyond the physical places where art once was found.
“It invests art with whole new sets of meaning,” DeLouche said, adding that the Martin Museum exhibit demonstrates the importance of context in understanding artwork.
The prints displayed in “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction” offer examples of how prints created new fields such as political cartoons, illustrated catalogues, scientific journals and books as well as reviving interest in antiquities and the status of women.
An Allbritton Art Institute grant underwrote a New York field trip for five students, who interviewed curators and collection specialists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Morgan Library and Museum, the New York Historical Soci ety and the New York Public Library.
Martin Museum director Allison Syltie said that trip and work with the Martin’s collection showed the important of first-hand experience and contact in understanding an artwork and its times. The student-created research will go into the Martin’s own holdings catalogue and, in fact, corrected some information there, she said.