Prints and People Before Photography, 1490-1825

The arrival of printmaking in early modern Europe led to new possibilities for mass communication and art collecting. Transportable, reproducible, and relatively inexpensive, prints contributed to the exchange of knowledge and ideas across international borders and among social classes. Prior to the invention of photography, it was prints that provided a window on the world, circulating images of other works of art, distinguished people, and noteworthy places and events.

This focused exhibition samples little-seen prints from the Benton’s collections, beginning with a leaf from La Mer des Histoires (1491), an illustrated history of the world, and ending with Asher B. Durand’s Musidora (1825), engraved just over a decade before Louis Daguerre introduced practical photography in 1839. Also on view are a group of reproductive prints that translate paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jean Siméon Chardin, and others into more portable, affordable graphic art. The exhibition explores the role of prints in society, including copying and copyright, public image-making and propaganda, and the publishing, marketing, and selling of prints.

Prints and People Online Catalog

Public Programs:

Art Encounters: Prints and People, Thursday, November 14, 6:30 - 7:30pm via Zoom

Virtual Walkthrough: Prints and People Before Photography, 1490-1825, Thursday, November 30, 6:30 - 7:30pm via Zoom

William Hogarth (British, 1697-1764) Southwark Fair (1733), Etching and engraving, William Benton Museum of Art.