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Graphic Sampler


With this Graphic Sampler, the Prints and Photographs Division presents to its friends a representative selection of images from the vast and diverse collections in its custody. The choice of subject matter studied by the twelve authors has been suggested either by the rediscovery of a group of drawings or prints hitherto unrecognized beyond a small circle of staff members or by the arrival of a new and interesting acquisition.

The first section of essays deals with pictures created between the end of the fifteenth century and the year 1800. A wide variety of techniques are represented here, ranging from an engraving on parchment to chiaroscuro woodcuts, from copper engravings and etchings to pen-and-ink drawings. These images were produced in continental Europe, in England, and in the United States. Many were not produced for aesthetic reasons alone but were created to foster religious devotion, to enhance the fame of artists through reproductive engravings, or to provide decorative patterns for use by goldsmiths, cabinetmakers, printers, and other artisans.

Also covered in this initial section are series of popular prints-those of street cries, for example-which served as souvenirs and collectors' items at the time of publication. This graphic folk art increases in interest and value with time because it documents clothing, customs, and trades long since vanished from our daily experience. Pen-and-ink sketches of guild days celebrated in Norwich also afford us a glimpse of eighteenth-century daily life still rooted in medieval English tradition.

vii / Preface

US Capitol, Washington, D.C., 1806
Architectural drawing by Benjamin Henry Latrobe

Reproduction number:

Graphic Sampler

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Architectural plans explored in this section range from a royal project in Italy to designs for domestic buildings in the United States. These carefully executed pen-and-wash drawings exemplify the work of professional architects of the eighteenth century. The work of the Italian Francisco La Vega, as well as that of Benjamin Latrobe, is permeated by the ideals of neoclassicism spreading from the continent of Europe throughout the Western world.

Prints and drawings of the nineteenth century are investigated in the second section of essays. The first article is devoted to forty-nine Rembrandt restrikes which the author attempts to place in their proper time frame. Rembrandt etchings enjoyed a revival of popularity in the, beginning of the nineteenth century; thus the correct identification of restrikes becomes a challenging puzzle for the print connoisseur. In the following article we return to Benjamin Latrobe, whose contribution to the design of the U.S. Capitol forms a well-documented chapter in the building's history. The Library is fortunate in owning a unique watercolor rendering of Latrobe's exterior view of the Capitol.

The invention of lithography in 1798 brought a new versatile technique to the aid of book illustrators, advertising artists, political cartoonists, and publishers of historical and popular prints, who welcomed a quick and inexpensive method of getting their pictures to the public. Several articles explore the use of this new vehicle of printmaking. The one on Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, a French illustrator, explains how he used images to express his enthusiasm for Napoleon in hundreds of lively scenes of day-to-day life during the reign of Bonaparte. In Germany the new method was put to the service of politics. The Library's two broadsides announcing the rise of Prussia were produced to advise neighboring countries of an imminent power struggle among the nations of Europe.

In the United States lithography was used to advantage in the newly developing field of commercial advertising of luxury goods. Examples of this are the colorful tobacco labels treated in the fourth article in this section. These images mirror the social concerns of the middle of the nineteenth century, the artists having borrowed freely from bookplates, fashion illustrations, and newspapers of the day. Lithographed letterheads also made their first appearance during this period. These tiny pictures of American cities are of historical interest because they capture the cityscapes at a specific period and state of growth possibly not documented in any other pictorial source. In contrast to these small images, large-size lithographic posters were used to advertise the performing arts.

viii / Preface

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The most spectacular advertisements were those announcing the latest events in the world of opera, vaudeville, music hall, and circus.

Schools used lithographic wall charts as aids to object teaching. Industrial entrepreneurs and manufacturers of elegant consumer goods used lithographic advertisements to publicize items ranging from locomotives and pistols to gas "smoothing-irons," bicycles, and sewing machines. The pictorial essay on women, the last article in this section, makes use of many of these lithographs because they mirror different facets of the daily activities of the American woman in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The two other essays in this section are devoted to original drawings. The Leutze sketchbooks reveal the working methods of an American artist who based his murals for the U.S. Capitol on studies made in the American West, while a more exotic selection of eyewitness accounts is the Library's collection of Yokohama-e, Japanese ink-and-wash drawings of the first Americans who landed in Japan with Commodore Perry in 1853. These images from the Orient furnish an entertaining and revealing view of the way Westerners appeared to Japanese observers. The drawings were converted into popular woodcuts, and many different editions were published in the 1850s before the novelty of the subject matter wore off.

The third section of essays describes prints, drawings, cartoons, and posters from the turn of the century to the 1960s. Six of these essays are devoted to individual artists. John Singer Sargent used the lithographic medium to develop pictorial ideas later to be translated into larger works. William Glackens appears in this sampler as artist-reporter of the Spanish-American War. His drawings of the troops in action capture the time and place of the dramatic events and point to his later career as a prominent painter of the Ashcan school. The Austrian-American composer Arnold Schonberg is discussed here as painter of a small work called Vision. This portrait from 1910 is typical of the expressionist style of the period. It is also the visual equivalent of the trends in contemporary music. Clifford Kennedy Berryman's career as political cartoonist spans over fifty years of American history, from the 1890s, when cartoons first became regular features in American newspapers, through the Truman era. His pictorial commentary on Washington politics and the international scene provides a visual record of the major issues of the first half of the twentieth century. Fritz Eichenberg's work focuses on the graphic interpretation of some of the seminal writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His woodcuts capture the essence of a story and translate it into pictorial form. In the essay Preface / ix included here, Eichenberg explains his working methods and shows us the development of an idea from quick, sketchy notation to final finished solution. Max Beckmannn's lithographic sheets for his "Day and Dream" series are an expressionistic interpretation of scenes from his life. The artist remains deliberately enigmatic, leaving the explanation of his pictures to the imagination of the viewer.

Two articles in this section document the somewhat more lively and topical mood of contemporary images. One on Mexican graphic art of the twentieth century shows how the graphic work involved brings the national concerns of the country into sharp focus. Pre-Columbian and Western stylistic elements are fused into a Mexican indigenous expression interpretive of native subjects and the aspirations of the people. Modern graphic art has here succeeded in filling an artistic as well as a social need. No discussion of twentieth-century visual art is complete without some reference to advertising art, which touches the imagination of more individuals than any other visual art form of our times. Appropriately, the last short essay in the section describes a motion-picture poster of Charlie Chaplin.

Although there is no common subject, medium or purpose readily available to help us fit the graphics explored by our authors into a comprehensive pattern, it is the joy of the Prints and Photographs Division that its collections are rich and inexhaustible. This abundance is reflected in the final article on the Library's architectural collections, which discusses the advantages offered to researchers in a special subject area by our unparalleled graphic collections. As is so amply demonstrated here, they can be explored from many different points of view and continually offer the user ever new and fresh images for his inspiration.

ix / Preface

Online selections from Graphic Sampler were reproduced under the auspices of the Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT) of the Library of Congress as part of the BeCites+ Project in 2004.
Catalog record: 79012124

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  February 10, 2004
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