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Five centuries of German and Austrian graphics on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
View of the exhibition GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.

MONTREAL.- For the first time, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is focusing an exhibition on the sweep of stylistic and cultural developments articulated in printmaking in Germany and Austria from the early history of the medium in the mid-15th century to modern times. GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics presents about 90 works, including several remarkable works on paper, that embrace over 550 years of Germanic creativity. Several of these works on paper have never previously been exhibited, while others have not been shown for some years. Highly important recent Museum acquisitions from all periods are also included.

Curated by Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator – Collections, and Curator of Old Masters, MMFA, GRAFIK! is exceptional in its chronological range as well as in the breadth, significance and quality of the print impressions and drawings. The exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity for Museum visitors to trace the technical and cultural history, of the Germanic and later Austrian graphic arts.

Creations by great masters

GRAFIK! presents a selection of works ranging from superb 15th-century engravings by Israhel van Meckenem the Younger and Martin Schongauer to masterpieces of woodcut and engraving by the towering early 16th-century master Albrecht Dürer – a dozen prints encompassing the breadth of his career – and a wide variety of works by other printmakers of that time. Also displayed are drawings by the German 18th- and 19th-century artists Jakob Philipp Hackert, Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, as well as drawings associated with later Viennese sensibilities by Hans Makart, Gustav Klimt (including studies of Adele Bloch-Bauer, his celebrated Woman in Gold) and Egon Schiele.

Moreover, the exhibition features a broad diversity of remarkable prints, some quite rare, by German Expressionist and Bauhaus artists, among them Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt Rottluff, Otto Mueller, George Grosz, Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. Among the works on view from the traumatic period in German history between the two World Wars are exciting new Museum acquisitions – a major, splendidly detailed drawing by Otto Dix for his portrait of Hugo Simons (also in the Museum’s collection), originally presented by the artist to his friend, the sitter, and an iconic woodcut, a self-portrait, by Erich Heckel. The exhibition concludes with a 1980 landscape print by Georg Baselitz.

Further augmenting the presentation are rare and profoundly influential examples of early German printing and illustrated book publishing, including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible (1455), the first European publication created with movable type, and the illustrious Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) with woodcut illustrations by Michael Wolgemut, the master of the young Dürer. Also on display is a copy of the original, Frankfurt edition of Sir William Harvey’s 1628 illustrated book on the circulation of blood.

Impressive loans

The presented artworks were primarily selected from the Museum’s permanent holdings but also include several highly important graphics and printed books from such other leading Canadian collections as the National Gallery of Canada and McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections library as well as outstanding private collections throughout Canada.

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