BMA exhibit of prints and drawings includes some of the world's best

September 23, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

A sweep of centuries, a spectrum of moods, a parade of styles and quite simply a lot of superb art from the Renaissance to yesterday can be found in the Baltimore Museum of Art's "Print and Drawing Society 25th Anniversary Exhibition."

There is Durer's engraving "Melancolia I," one of the most famous prints of all time, and Picasso's "The Minotauromachy," perhaps the greatest print of the 20th century.

There is Rembrandt's copperplate of "St. Jerome Kneeling in Prayer" from 1635 and there is Sue Coe's "Supreme Court" from 1992.

There is the hilarity of Thomas Rowlandson's "Mad Bull on Westminster Bridge" and there is Lovis Corinth's "Dance of Death."

There is the lushness of Renoir's "Child with Biscuit" and there is the spare beauty of one of Eva Hesse's late "window" drawings ("Untitled").

Founded in 1968 as the Baltimore Print Club, the print and drawing society is the oldest of the museum's support groups. Its members benefit from educational programs and other activities, and the museum benefits from members' contributions of money and especially of works of art.

The selection of about 75 works in the current show was made by curator Jay M. Fisher from the members' hundreds of donations over the years.

One of the most recent is the Rembrandt copperplate, the acquisition of which shows one way in which the society works to enrich the museum's collection.

Fewer than a hundred of the plates on which Rembrandt drew his etchings, and from which he printed them, are known to exist, and they rarely come on the market. But last winter a group of them was offered. Mr. Fisher turned to the print and drawing society for the necessary $25,000 to buy "St. Jerome," of which the museum already owned two prints, one made in Rembrandt's lifetime and one later. The society's members contributed all the money in a few months.

Today the plate and the two prints from it constitute the centerpiece of the exhibit. Visitors can easily spot differences between the earlier and later prints; but, though it was much used over the centuries, the plate itself retains a remarkable immediacy, and the opportunity to see all three objects together provides a rare thrill.

There are numerous delights waiting for the visitor to this carefully selected and imaginatively installed show. "The Minotauromachy" hangs in a group of four Picasso works dating from early (1909) to late (1964).

Mezzotints by the 19th century French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot and the contemporary American Susan Rothenberg show how two very different artists use this technique which produces such soft, rich results.

A group of drawings of heads reveals a spectrum of sensibilities from the delicacy of John Storrs' "Female Head" to the gutsiness of Diego Rivera's "Untitled (Male Peasant)." Other groupings include art nouveau, early 20th century German artists, Pollock and de Kooning, and contemporary art. The pleasures of this show go on and on.

ART REVIEW

What: Print and Drawing Society 25th Anniversary Exhibition

Where: The Baltimore Museum of Art, Art Museum Drive near Charles and 31st streets

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 19

Admission: $5.50 adults, $3.50 seniors and students, $1.50 ages 7 through 18, free on Thursdays

Call: (410) 396-7100

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