Print room  

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Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.
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Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.
Le Ministère de la Marine (1865-1866) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting the marine ministry "attacked" by a charging flock of fantastic creatures.
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Le Ministère de la Marine (1865-1866) is a print by French etcher Charles Méryon depicting the marine ministry "attacked" by a charging flock of fantastic creatures.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A print room is a room in an art gallery, museum or archive, where a collection of old master and modern prints, usually together with drawings and watercolours, are held and viewed. What is by general consent the world's greatest collection overall is that of the Albertina (Vienna), currently completely closed for rebuilding. This is one of the relatively few print rooms to exist as a separate institution rather than as part of a larger museum or library; the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett at Kulturforum is another example.

Contents

How to visit

Most national collections can be seen by the public more easily than is often realised. Usually, visitors of all sorts, whether researchers or not, are entitled to view works on paper not on display in the galleries, which will form the great majority of an institution's collection, thereby making print rooms an essential resource for enabling our understanding and appreciation of works on paper - in particular, how artists conceive of finished paintings through preparatory studies, and how printmaking traditions and techniques have evolved over the centuries. On a national level, print rooms tend to differ, each having their own specialism, however collections often overlap in content.

There are links to lists of print rooms at the end of the article; most lead to the gallery's or museum's web-pages, which explain visiting arrangements. In many cases appointments need to be made in advance, and proof of identity should usually be provided. While it is helpful to outline what you would like to see (including artists' names and catalogue numbers, which may be available online or in books), visitors are also usually welcome to discuss their needs more casually by phoning or emailing in advance of their appointment. It is important to remember that not all material will be available to view, depending on current loans and exhibitions commitments and the condition of works. Some especially fragile or valuable items may not normally be available for viewing.

Often not in the expected museum

Because of the need to keep them stored, prints and drawings are sometimes associated with library collections rather than collections of paintings. For example in Paris the main print (but not drawings) collection is in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, not the Louvre. In New York and Washington, both the main art museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Gallery of Art Washington) and the libraries (New York Public Library and Library of Congress)all have important, though very different, collections. Sometimes, material from non-Western traditions - in particular, Asian material, including Japanese prints - may or may not be held in the same department, or the same institution.

In London, the National Gallery holds no works on paper; only paintings and sculptures of the European tradition. The main collection of Western prints and drawings is held in the British Museum and includes fine examples by the Old Masters. Originally known as the national gallery of British art, Tate Britain holds British prints and drawings, which include the world's largest collection of watercolours, sketches and engravings by JMW Turner, historic works on paper from the late 18th and 19th centuries, and modern and contemporary British and International prints. The Victoria and Albert Museum's works on paper collection has a particularly broad remit, encompassing works of fine and applied art (including posters) as well as ephemera.

What is by general consent the world's greatest collection overall is that of the Albertina (Vienna), currently completely closed for rebuilding. This is one of the relatively few print rooms to exist as a separate institution rather than as part of a larger museum or library; the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett at Kulturforum is another example. The list of museums with major collections of European prints and drawings has some very incomplete figures on the holdings of major collections.

Collections

Deutschland

Niederlande

Österreich

Schweiz

  • Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett
  • Graphische Sammlung der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule, Zürich

Verenigde Staten

Nederland:

In België:

France

Literatuur

  • Het Leidse Prentenkabinet. De geschiedenis van de verzamelingen, Baarn, De Prom (1994) ISBN 9068013998.
  • Meesterwerken uit het Stedelijk Prentenkabinet van Antwerpen. Tekeningen uit de XVIde en XVIIde eeuw, Antwerpen (1988).
  • Honderd tekeningen van oude meesters uit het Prentenkabinet van Dresden, Brussel (1967).




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