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Sacred/Supernatural: Religion, Myth, and Magic in European Prints, 1450-1900

1/27/2022 - 5/15/2022
Organizing institution: Krannert Art Museum at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Primary Curator: Maureen Warren

Sacred/Supernatural explores some of the methods European printmakers—including Rembrandt van Rijn and Albrecht Dürer—used to convey extraordinary events and individuals in intaglio and relief prints from 1450 to 1900. The exhibition includes works by Dutch, English, Flemish, French, German, Italian, and Scottish printmakers. Many of the prints in the exhibition relate to Judeo-Christian theology: such as how and whether to portray God, Christ, the Passion, saints, prophets, the devil, witches, and demons. The exhibition also includes mythological and pagan subjects, including Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, sacrifices, and beings such as satyrs. While the themes may be otherworldly, these prints had a real-world impact. Many are devotional, helping the faithful strengthen their piety. Others guided the viewer toward a good life through example or counterexample, showing moral exemplars or the consequences of bad behavior. However, even if some works had a devotional or didactic purpose, they were nonetheless intended to entertain and delight. Artists of the period devoted significant creative energy to representing otherworldly subjects. They invented creative solutions to convey to viewers that something or someone in their images was not part of our day-to-day reality, portraying everything from divine beings and miracles to witches and demons. Printmakers were also eager to demonstrate their abilities as designers and draftsmen. For many, the variety, beauty, and skill of the marks they made was as much a subject of their prints as whatever they were representing. Includes loans from other UIUC campus unit collections: Spurlock Museum, Ricker Library of Art & Architecture, and Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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