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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeeNorth-South, East-West


North-South, East-West, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeDespite the early precedence of Hannibal, the Alps remained a barrier between northern and southern Europe until the Middle Ages. When printmaking began in the 14th century it developed independently in Germany in the North and in Italy in the South. But the easy portability of printed impressions helped to spread artistic ideas and by the close of the 14th century artists themselves had begun to travel. For the next two centuries European artistic development was largely the product of an aesthetic dialogue between Italy and the rest of Europe.

Printmaking developed in the north from a background of goldsmithery, in an artistic tradition that was still gothic, while in Italy Renaissance ideals already held sway. In the north the Master E.S., Schongauer, Israhel van Meckenham and the Master A.G. made plates that were mainly religious in subject or reflected everyday life, in a style characterised by the graceful line and overall pattern-making of International Gothic. In Italy Mantegna and Pollaiuolo, amongst the greatest masters of the Early Renaissance, emulated Antique classical relief sculpture in ideal themes taken from classical mythology, carried out with an understanding of underlying form and the illusion of three-dimensional space. In Italian art the artist’s imagination in the invention of his design, the drawing of the figures in movement both physical and psychological, were all important; in the north, a delight in background detail, observation of the natural world, and the domestic reality of everyday life were appreciated.

About 1500, with the dawn of the new century and a new generation of artists and engravers, which included three of the greatest and most influential printmakers, Dürer in Germany, Lucas van Leyden in the Netherlands and Raimondi in Italy, the scene was set  for a fruitful exchange of northern and Italian predilections.

Dürer first visited Venice in 1495; and again in 1506 when there was an outbreak of plague in Nuremberg. The Venetian Jacopo de’ Barbari settled in Nuremberg in 1500 and spent the rest of his life in Germany and the Netherlands. Raimondi’s stay in Venice coincided  with Dürer’s second visit to the city. Jacopo de’ Barbari introduced Dürer to the classical canons of proportion and linear perspective; and each showed awareness of  the other’s engraving style in their plates. Raimondi coped Dürer's woodcuts and engravings before settling in Rome about 1510 and his mature engraving style was established under the influence of Dürer’s method of crosshatching. Lucas van Leyden borrowed from both Dürer and Raimondi; Raimondi incorporated Lucas’s landscape backgrounds, as well as landscape motifs from Dürer, into his engravings based on Raphael’s figure designs.

Northern artists learnt the vocabulary and subject matter of Ancient Rome; Italian artists absorbed the northern observation of nature and discovery of landscape and genre as themes.

Printmaking was introduced to France by Italian artists invited by François I to Fontainebleau; the beginning of a particularly close artistic relationship between the two countries. Emigré Frenchmen Beatrizet and Lafrery were leading publishers in Rome in the 16th century; and in the 17th century Callot trained and spent a number of years in Florence, while Claude settled permanently in Rome and became one of Italy’s greatest artists. Stefano della Bella moved in the opposite direction and spent a number of years in Paris.

Italy was the first country to establish art academies and as the home of the Renaissance as well as the site of antique classical remains, a visit became an essential part of European art education. It was visiting foreign artists who first recorded the picturesque quality of ancient ruins and discovered the landscape of the Roman campagna, opening Italian eyes to new subject matter. The hunchback Dutch artist Pieter van Laer (later nicknamed Bamboccio –‘ugly doll’) introduced low life subjects to Italy and those artists in Rome who followed him in this genre were called I Bamboccianti. Reciprocally the golden quality of light which Dutch artists discovered in Italy was transposed on their return home to their native landscapes.

While in the catholic countries of Europe religious subjects continued to inspire printmakers, Dutch political independence, Protestantism and thriving middle-class commerce encouraged an ambience to which Dutch artists responded with specialised genres of marines, landscape, interior domestic scenes, peasant ‘low life’ and animals.

North-South, East-West, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeThrough the 19th century and even into the 20th century Italy continued its role as an artistic magnet, though increasingly to an ‘academic’ audience, while Paris took the lead as the centre of the avant-garde. Artists of the Modernist movements sort inspiration in more primitive or exotic cultures.

Already in the 18th century chinoiserie entered into European design and ornamentation. In the early 19th century political events such as Napoleon’s campaign in North Africa and Greece’s struggle for independence from the Ottomon empire excited among artists an awareness of new orientalist motifs. However it was in the later decades of the 19th century that the full impact of the East struck European artists and determined a new artistic language.

Ukiyo-e  prints had developed as a national art form in Japan through two centuries of isolation. Designed for an internal market they showed the pleasures of life in the city and with Hokusai and Hiroshige took a new direction inspired by the beauties of the natural world in the surrounding landscape. Japanese woodcuts came to Europe initially as packing around imported porcelain and works of art in the 1850’s but caught the imagination of French artists and collectors almost immediately. European art was looking for new directions and Japanese woodcuts arrived at just the right moment as signposts to modernism. The ‘invention’ of photography made artists question the purpose of painting, which since the Renaissance had sort an ever more realistic depiction of the external world, a job the camera could take over. Japanese woodcuts with their stylisation, flattened forms, two-dimensional patterns offered a new approach to picture making.

Although the Dutch with their long trading associations with the Far East already had an interest in eastern artefacts, France led the way in japonisme and sparked the interest in the other countries of Europe. At first French artists simply found in Japanese objects a new subject matter for still life, a hint of exoticism in ornamental props but soon they adapted the new formal language they found in the Japanese woodcut, the various compositional devices, to their own artistic preoccupations. They also adopted the motifs most frequently met in the woodcuts of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige (for it was with the work of these near contemporaries that they were most familiar) – the arching bridge, trees, herons, cats, rain, umbrellas; all motifs readily observable as part of everyday western city life too. Japanese recording of intimate moments in domestic life and their portraits of famous actors and courtesans opened up new possibilities of subject matter to the Impressionists that had not been acceptable to earlier academicism steeped in classical ideals. Such Japanese themes and compositional devices as the high view point which pulls the picture space up to the picture plane; diagonal emphasis to the composition; ‘punctuating’ posts and tree trunks to give vertical divisions; forms stylized to simple outlines or silhouettes; truncated objects suggestive of continuing space outside the picture; became so much absorbed into modern European tradition that it is easy to forget its Japanese stereotype.

From the 1850’s Japanese artists were reciprocally open to ideas from the West and began introducing linear perspective. They established art schools in Japan along western lines and trained students in western methods. By the early 20th century Japanese artists were visiting Europe and America and some, such as Foujita, settled permanently in the West. The 'Sosaku Hang'  artists wished to renew the declined ukiyo-e tradition by developing woodcut along western lines as the original creative expression of a single artist who designed and produced his own prints (the Japanese tradition had remained a co-operative one, involving the publisher, a designing artist, a cutter and a printer). The 'Shin Hang' tendency, influenced by the popularity in Europe of 19th century traditional Japanese colour woodcuts wished to revive ukiyo-e prints in modernised form. Both schools declined when Japan was isolated once more when she invaded Manchuria and during the Second World War. After the War Japanese artists were fragmented and closer to western individualism and international modernism.

The impact of printed colour found in Japanese prints, particularly of the 19th century artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige whose prints exploited the new bright strongly pigmented aniline dyes, was slower to affect the West than the absorption of motif and compositional device. But by the 1880’s and especially in the 1890’s the “Colour Revolution” as it has been termed took place. Although Henri Rivière and Auguste Lepère experimented briefly with colour woodcut, lithography and aquatint were the preferred techniques for colour printmaking among French artists. It was the revival of the very concept of colour printing, rather than the Japanese technique or colour range, that excited them. Conversely, in the early decades of the 20th century, artists, particularly in Britain and Austria, took to colour woodblock making and printing by the Japanese method, though to express traditional western motifs in Western style.

Though the political situation has changed in recent decades and there is no longer an isolated Eastern Block in Europe, printmaking in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland remains relatively unknown in western Europe. Impressions are not readily available in eastern or western Europe, so that only a small selection by 20th century artists from eastern Europe is included in this catalogue. Several of these were also influenced by japonisme. Like their ‘ancestor’ Wenceslaus Hollar, some worked for a time or emigrated permanently to the West. Mucha, Emil Orlik, Frantizek Simon and Joseph Hecht won international reputations settled in France or Germany and testify to the internationality of artists’ printmaking in the early 20th century.

Both the North-South and East-West polarities resulted in the creation of new styles and motifs which enriched the history and development of printmaking. Renaissance, Baroque and 18th & early 19th century western art evolved from the legacy of International Gothic in contact with Ancient Rome and Greece. The Modern Movement evolved from the impact of the East. It is interesting to note a cycle of inspirational ideas; for the ‘primitiveness’ of gothic, with blank (gold) backgrounds, an interest in decorative patterns and its vertical, somewhat two-dimensional picture space has much in common with the compositional devices which so excited modern European artists when they looked at Japanese prints. These similarities to their own previous cultural history no doubt confirmed the ‘new’ direction.

Published 1994
72 pages, 191 prints described and illustrated in b/w (with 31 reproduced again in colour on the covers)  

(UK Price: £10, International orders: £15)

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Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Airey A
  • Armfield M
  • Austin R
  • Baldung Grien H
  • Bamberger G
  • Barbari J de’
  • Barker A R
  • Beham S
  • Béjot E
  • Bell R A
  • Bella S della
  • Berkley S
  • Bloemaert A
  • Bloemaert F
  • Bormann E
  • Both J
  • Boxius S
  • Brangwyn F
  • Breslern-Roth N von
  • Buckton E
  • Bye M de
  • Cameron K
  • Carracci A
  • Castiglione B
  • Cesio C
  • Chadell J
  • Clarke A Legros
  • Claude le Lorrain
  • Clilverd G
  • Coornhert C V
  • Copley J
  • Coster G M de
  • Degas C G H
  • Delacroix E
  • Delâtre E
  • Dente M
  • Detmold E J
  • Dietricy C W E
  • Dietterlin W
  • Dupérac E
  • Dürer A
  • East A
  • Foujita T
  • Galle P
  • Gellée C
  • Gey-Heinze M
  • Ghisi G
  • Gill E
  • Girdwood S
  • Goff R
  • Gray J W
  • Guérard H
  • Guthrie J J
  • Hackert J P
  • Haden F S
  • Hamblin-Smith M L
  • Hasegawa S
  • Hecht J
  • Hecke J van den
  • Hitchings T C R
  • Hockey J M
  • Hopfer H
  • Horky F
  • Hyde H
  • Ingres J A D
  • Jacquemart J
  • Jaques B
  • Kawanishe H
  • Keith E
  • Kirchner E
  • Kirkpatrick E
  • Klistan A
  • Komjati J
  • Ladstäter A
  • Lambert A
  • Lap E
  • Lee S
  • Lee-Hankey W
  • Legeay J L
  • Legrand L
  • Leighton C
  • Lepautre J
  • Loir L
  • Lord E A
  • Lucas van Leyden
  • Lutma J
  • MacLaughlan D S
  • Magnin J
  • Manet E
  • Maratta C
  • Master AG
  • Master of the Die
  • Menpes M
  • Middlehurst F
  • Montagna B
  • Moreelse P
  • Muckley L F
  • Musi A
  • Neumann H
  • Nevinson C R W
  • Nishiyama H
  • Nooms R
  • Okuyama G
  • Orlik E
  • Paillard H
  • Palmer E
  • Parker M M
  • Pepper C H
  • Phillips W J
  • Piquet R
  • Pissarro O
  • Platt J E
  • Platten U
  • Pott C M
  • Potter P
  • Raimondi M
  • Rankin A L
  • Rath H
  • Read A R
  • Reiner I
  • Rice B
  • Rice E G
  • Rivière H
  • Rosa S
  • Roussel T
  • Sadeler J
  • Schmutzer F
  • Scultori G B
  • Seaby A W
  • Shepherd W J A
  • Simon T F
  • Staeger F
  • Svabinsky M
  • Swanevelt H
  • Syme E
  • Takekushi K
  • Tyson D P
  • Urushibara J
  • Veneziano A
  • Vico E
  • Volkmann H R von
  • Vondrous J C
  • West J W
  • Wierix A
  • Whistler J M
  • Yoshida H
  • Zeeman R

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