13 October - 13 November 1999

Masterpieces of 20th Century Printmaking

    The Alan Cristea Gallery will be holding an exhibition of prints by some of the most important artists of the 20th century. It will include the best examples of printmaking by Josef Albers, George Braque, Jean Dubuffet, Naum Gabo, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.

    Picasso and Matisse, between them, arguably produced some of the most enduring images of this century. Picasso's complex portrayals of his lovers such as, Femme au Fauteuil No.1, and Matisse's decadent Odalisque lithographs are instantly recognisable. Both were also masters of simplicity. Picasso's deft use of the etched line in the Vollard Suite creates a vocabulary of erotically charged imagery. Matisse's aquatints were the last prints he ever made and represent the distillation of his work. Working on several plates at the same time, Matisse created each one from just a few gestural brush strokes.

    Josef Albers was true printmaker who took enormous pleasure in experimenting with numerous media, including etching, drypoint, engraving, cork relief, lithography, and inkless intaglios. His influence as a teacher at many of the leading artistic institutions including the Bauhaus and Yale is paramount, as are his theories on colour interaction which led to the infamous, Homage to the Square series.

    In contrast to Albers, Naum Gabo's printmaking was an intensely personal activity and the results were not initially intended for public consumption. In all he created 12 woodblock images entitled Opus. From each of these he produced a series of delicate, linear monotypes, many of which directly relate to his more famous sculptural work.

    Georges Braque's prints range from bold still life depictions of everyday objects such as in Theiere et Citrons, to the more subtle and ambiguous birds that appear throughout his later career. Each is an exercise in purity and echoes the desire he has in his paintings to create the perfect fusion of form and colour.

    Dubuffet's most important prints are a combination of the humorous and the tragic L'Enfle Chique III, with its nonsensical title, brings together his interest in texture and assemblage with his fascination for the images of Art Brut.

    Joan Miro is one of the Century's most prolific printmakers and it is his early etchings and lithographs which stand out. Series I from 1952/53 is a group of eight etchings, each taken from the same plate. Produced in editions of 13, they explore the same image through a progression of colour and intensity. In contrast, Dog Barking at the Moon from the same year is a single colour lithograph that perfectly captures the ambiguity and abstract qualitied of his surrealist paintings.

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