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Prints in Early Modern Europe

Block Winter 2012 exhibition offers glimpse of exceptional treasures

December 20, 2011 | by Judy Moore
Block Prints

Hendrick Goltzius, Portrait of Nicolaus Petri van Deventer, 1595, engraving

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An exhibition of rare and treasured prints, drawings, books, maps and scientific instruments and a related international conference at Northwestern University this winter will explore the vital contributions Northern Renaissance artists made to scientific discoveries. Both will take place on the Evanston campus at the University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

In addition to the Jan. 20 daylong symposium, gallery talks, a visit to Northwestern’s Dearborn Observatory, and an explorers guide for families are among the related programs planned.

The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

“Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe” (Jan. 17 to April 8) confirms that artists were not just illustrators in the service of scientists, but that their work played an active role in facilitating the understanding of new concepts in astronomy, geography, natural history and anatomy.

Featuring work by Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein, Hendrick Goltzius, Jacques de Gheyn and others, the exhibition was organized by the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., in collaboration with the Block Museum. Digital displays, videos, an audio guide, an iPad/iPhone app and interactive replicas of sundials, globes and other tools add exciting hands-on components. An illustrated exhibition catalogue is available for $60.

On Friday, Jan. 20, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Block Museum will host Knowledge|Replication: Early Modern Sciences in Print, a conference expanding the territory charted in “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge.” Organized by Claudia Swan, associate professor of art history, in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, it includes presentations by Daniela Bleichmar (University of Southern California), Matthew Hunter (McGill University, Montreal), Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute, the Hague), Elmer Kolfin (University of Amsterdam) and I.B. Leemans (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam). “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge” curator Susan Dackerman (Harvard Art Museums), Lawrence Lipking (Northwestern University) and Adrian Johns (University of Chicago) will participate as panel discussants. The event is supported by the Myers Foundations and Northwestern’s department of art history, Science in Human Culture Program and Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

“Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge” and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mrs. Arthur K. Solomon, Lionel and Vivian Spiro, Walter and Virgilia Klein, Julian and Hope Edison, Novartis on behalf of Dr. Steven E. Hyman, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Barbara and the late Robert Wheaton, the Goldman Sachs Foundation and an anonymous donor. Support for its presentation at the Block Museum and related programs is provided by the Myers Foundations; Lyrica Endowment; Netherland-America Foundation; Samuel H. Kress Foundation; Alumnae of Northwestern University; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; IFPDA Foundation; Robert Lehman Foundation; Alsdorf Endowment; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; and the Evanston Arts Council.


In addition to the Knowledge|Replication conference, the Block Museum will offer gallery talks with curators and art historians, an evening of stargazing, an explorers guide for families and more.


Self-Guided Family Tours, Compass Quest, Jan. 21 to April 8. Families are encouraged to discover navigational tools, maps and prints in “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge” by using Block Museum’s explorers kit, available for free checkout during public hours.

Block Museum docents will lead guided tours of the exhibition at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, from Jan. 28 to April 8. Tours for classes or groups of eight or more people are also available with advance notice. Contact blockeducation@northwestern.edu.

• Northwestern Student Docent Exhibition Tours, 6 p.m. Thursdays, from Feb. 2 to March 8, and 6 p.m. April 5. How can you tell time in multiple countries using a folded piece of paper? Find out the answer to this and other fascinating questions during Block Museum’s informal and interactive 45-minute tours of “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge,” hosted by Northwestern student docents. New topics will be introduced every week.


Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Depth. Explore “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge” with art historians and curators offering their unique perspectives on the artwork, objects and topics of the winter exhibition.

Geometry and the Artist-Scientist, 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26. Northwestern art history graduate students Kathleen Tahk (a contributor to the exhibition catalogue) and Stephanie Glickman will focus on Nuremberg goldsmith Wenzel Jamnitzer’s quest to establish himself as a scientific thinker.

• Of Flowers and Autopsies: Making Early Modern Science, noon, Wednesday, Feb. 8. Northwestern art history professor Claudia Swan will discuss the role of botanical and anatomical illustration in the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world.

• Printed Scientific Instruments, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29. Suzanne Karr-Schmidt, a Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Bruce Stephenson, curator at the Adler Planetarium, will examine sundials, globes, astrolabes and other navigational and time-keeping devices made of paper.

• Exhibition Overview and Highlights, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 29. Block Museum senior curator Debora Wood leads an informative exploration of the exhibition.


Picturing and Observing the Night Sky, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, Dearborn Observatory, 2131 Tech Drive, Northwestern University, Evanston. Block Museum senior curator Debora Wood and Michael Smutko, distinguished senior lecturer in physics and astronomy at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss how early astronomers mapped the stars. Afterwards participants can see the stars through the University’s historic telescope. Limited to 30 people. Preregistration is required by phoning (847) 491-4852 or emailing blockeducation@northwestern.edu. Rain date is Feb. 15. Note: The observatory's dome is not heated so dress appropriately. The observatory is not ADA-accessible. Several staircases must be climbed to reach the telescope.


Admission to the Block Museum galleries and programs listed above is free. The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed on Monday. For more information, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu or call (847) 491-4000.
Topics: Campus Life