Earliest attempts at colour printing in the West on display for the first time

Imaging techniques developed by CHICC have underpinned research in to the earliest attempts at colour printing in the West. Selected prints are now on display at the British Museum as part of a new exhibition curated by British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Elizabeth Savage,  until 27 January 2016.

On the basis of microscopic analysis at the British Museum’s World Conservation and Exhibition Centre and photomacrographs taken by Gwen Riley Jones (CHICC), it has now been confirmed that the British Museum Charles V is the sixth known woodcut – and 20th impression – issued with gold printing ink before the 18th century.

1862_0208_55_sgr

Attr. Hans Weiditz, Portrait of Charles V (1519), woodcut on vellum from two block (gold, black) with hand-colouring, 35.6 x 20.3 cm. Printed by Jost de Negker, Augsburg. The British Museum, London, 1862.0208.55. Image courtest of the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care, University of Manchester and © The Trustees of the British Museum.

1862_0208_55_detail_01_raking_02.jpg

Detail of Portrait of Charles V (1519), image courtesy of the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care, University of Manchester and  © The Trustees of the British Museum.

1862_0208_55_detail_02_sg.jpg

Detail of Portrait of Charles V (1519), image courtesy of the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care, University of Manchester and © The Trustees of the British Museum. 

 

The exhibition will examine the earliest attempts to incorporate colour into printmaking in the 1400s and 1500s in the German lands—where colour printmaking began in the West. It brings together 31 prints and one drawing, many of which are unique and have never been displayed together before, to present a representative survey of the first century of colour printing in Germany, where the technology developed.

_MG_1378.jpg

Dr Elizabeth Savage examining prints at the British Museum during image capture.

Curated by Dr Elizabeth Savage as a result of her British Academy funded research project, it is the first exhibition dedicated to the early history of colour prints in Renaissance and Reformation Germany. Before 1700, colour prints were thought to be extremely rare, if not technically impossible. The few outliers, like Italian chiaroscuro (tonal) woodcuts, are celebrated as visionary and exceptional. But new research has revealed hundreds of previously unknown colour prints. Circulating in thousands (if not tens of thousands) of impressions, colour prints decorated furniture, imitated expensive woods on ceilings, illustrated ideas in books, clarified religious iconography, and, of course, were admired as art.

By tracing technical developments and artistic and market trends across the sixteenth century, ‘German Renaissance Colour Woodcuts’ demonstrates that colour printing was part of daily life in Renaissance and Reformation Germany.

Dr Savage, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, said: “The history of prints is usually in black and white, but early prints were vibrant. Late medieval and early modern German printers pushed the emergent technology of the printing press to its limits in their quest to print colour. They, not the artists, controlled this artistic effect. The British Museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of early colour prints, so this is a unique opportunity to see how printers manipulated different palettes and achieved a range of stunning visual effects 500 years before Photoshop.”

The exhibition is arranged in five sections. Highlights include three of the six woodcuts printed with gold in early modern Europe.

Visiting Admission: Free and open to all.

Opening hours: 10.00–17.30 Saturday to Thursday and 10.00–20.30 Fridays.

Location: Room 90, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG.

Advertisements

One thought on “Earliest attempts at colour printing in the West on display for the first time

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: