Innocence and Experience: Selections from the Department of Drawings and Prints

February 9th - May 16th, 2023
Free with Museum admission

The Department of Drawings and Prints boasts more than one million drawings, prints, and illustrated books made in Europe and the Americas from around 1400 to the present day. Because of their number and sensitivity to light, the works can only be exhibited for a limited period and are usually housed in on-site storage facilities. To highlight the vast range of works on paper, the department organizes four rotations a year in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery. Each installation is the product of a collaboration among curators and consists of up to 100 objects grouped by artist, technique, style, period, or subject.

This installation considers how artists working in early Renaissance Italy, late Georgian Britain, and nineteenth-century Europe and America sought new approaches to record and shape visual imagery. Sections also focus on representations of motherhood and on portraiture.

Early Italian drawings, ranging from model book sheets to sketches after nature, give insight into the emerging centrality of the medium to the artistic process. The selection illuminates popular workshop practices and explores the ways in which painters and sculptors relied on the exercise of drawing to record designs, develop compositions, and hone their craft.

William Blake offered late Georgian Britons a radical new vision, revealed here through a treasured copy of his Songs of Innocence and Experience, acquired soon after the Print Department was established. These small, vibrant images are placed in conversation with Blake’s large relief etchings and Biblical watercolors, and works by his British contemporaries.

Prints and drawings by nineteenth-century European, British, and American artists convey the intimate relationship of mother and child. From formal portraits to scenes of the private sphere, these works communicate the tenderness and tribulations of early motherhood. Finally, a group of etched portraits brings together artists, especially printmakers, in the circle of Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.

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Angel of the Revelation (Book of Revelation, chapter 10), William Blake  British, Watercolor, pen and black ink, brush and wash, over traces of graphite
William Blake (British, London 1757–1827 London)
ca. 1803–5
Pity, William Blake  British, Relief etching, printed in color and finished with pen and ink and watercolor
William Blake (British, London 1757–1827 London)
William Shakespeare (British, Stratford-upon-Avon 1564–1616 Stratford-upon-Avon)
ca. 1795
Madame Alexandre Lethière and Her Daughter Letizia, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres  French, Graphite
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (French, Montauban 1780–1867 Paris)
ca. 1815
Maternal Caress, Mary Cassatt  American, Drypoint, aquatint and softground etching, printed in color from three plates; sixth state of six (Mathews & Shapiro)
Mary Cassatt (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1844–1926 Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise)
Municipal Shelter, Käthe Kollwitz  German, Lithograph
Käthe Kollwitz (German, Kaliningrad (Königsberg) 1867–1945 Moritzburg)
Marquee: William Blake, Pity (detail), ca. 1795. Relief etching, printed in color and finished with pen and ink and watercolor, sheet: 16 5/8 x 20 3/4in. (42.2 x 52.7cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Robert W. Goelet, 1958, transferred from European Paintings (58.603)

Plan Your Visit

February 9th - May 16th, 2023
Free with Museum admission