Print Culture and the Early Modern Arts in Italy, France and Spain - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Print Culture and the Early Modern Arts in Italy, France and Spain

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MA History of Art Special Option

Print Culture and the Early Modern Arts in Italy, France and Spain


Dr Sheila McTighe

An introduction to all aspects of the graphic arts in southern Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the course will examine the notion of early modern ‘print culture’, following the work done by historians of the book and the publishing industry. We will be looking at the means by which new printed media brought about the first large-scale international market in the arts, transforming the circulation of artistic ideas and fostering the development of new forms of imagery. At the same time, international trade in printed images led to a marketplace for religious and political ideals and public values. The enormous impact of Dutch, Flemish and German prints on the arts in southern Europe will also be a core part of our studies.

Although we will be looking at ‘art prints’, and often those by well-known artists, we will also study popular prints, reproductive prints and printed images from books and pamphlets. In the introductory part of the course, students will become familiar with all the different types of printmaking techniques and processes, as well as learning about the full range of subjects that were represented within printed media. One focus will be on the relation of printed images to painting and sculpture. Students with a particular interest in a Baroque painter or sculptor may study them through the filter of their interaction with the world of early modern prints. The second part of the course takes up the historian Roger Chartier’s description of a ‘culture of print’ in order to extend it into the realm of printed imagery. Through the lens of ‘print culture’ we can look at the enormous impact of prints on public life in southern Europe, from the spread of literacy and visual literacy, to the role of images in religious devotion and religious conflict, to issues in high and low or popular culture.

Classes will regularly be held in the prints and drawings collections of the British Museum. There will be group trips to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Print Room of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, and the British Library. Some of the printmakers we will be studying include Marcantonio Raimondi, Parmigianino, Agostino and Annibale Carracci, Cornelis Cort, Jacques Callot, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Abraham Bosse, Jusepe Ribera, Pietro Testa, Stefano della Bella, Francesco de Zurbaran. We will look at the reception of Rembrandt in Italy and France, the relation between Flemish printing houses and Spain, Italy, and France, and the heritage of Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius and Rembrandt through the presence of their prints in Italian, French and Spanish collections.

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

Sheila McTighe took her PhD at Yale University with a thesis on Nicolas Poussin and libertinage, which became the subject of her first book. She taught subsequently at Cornell and Columbia Universities before arriving at The Courtauld in 1998. Her interests then took her toward the study of 17th century naturalism and the depiction of everyday life. This in turn led to fascination with 17th-century Italian and French prints and with print culture more broadly. She enjoys being able to teach in front of works of art in London’s museum collections, and traveling with students to study paintings and prints in Paris and Rome.

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