This exhibition surveys how America and its people have been represented in prints made by American and non-American artists between 1710 and 2010. Early prints of the continent’s indigenous peoples, its landscapes, flora and fauna, its historical events, wars, and citizenry reflect the curiosity of Europeans about a world they perceived as new and strange. At the same time, American artists often turned to prints to present a vision of their youthful democracy.
Prints are well-suited for quickly conveying images of contemporary events to a wide audience, and thus have often been a forum for social commentary or criticism. The exhibition includes works from across the centuries that aim to raise awareness and inspire change. On view, for instance, is an engraving of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere as well as a broadside from more than two hundred years later by the undercover feminist collective known as the Guerrilla Girls. The exhibition also features works by artists equally drawn to the aesthetic potential of printmaking. From James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and others of the late nineteenth century to Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler in the twentieth, vanguard artists have explored printmaking’s unique artistic possibilities. In recent years, radical experiments by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Serra have pushed to the breaking point the very definition of the medium.
The more than 150 prints in this exhibition, mounted on the occasion of the National Gallery’s 75th anniversary, are drawn entirely from the Gallery’s collection, including promised gifts.
National Gallery of Art - Three Centuries of American Prints from the National Gallery of Art