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A) GENERAL COLLECTIONS
Most major collections of prints (except for Berlin and the Albertina in Vienna) and many minor ones, now show at least some highlights, but often prints are crowded out by drawings.
Some sites, like the British Museum & the Metropolitan NY below, have relatively few images but good information on each image shown. These are the best places to start for an introduction to prints in general. Others have far more images but little text. All these sites are open for public access, but most restrict copying, downloading etc.
Probably the fullest collection on-line is the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Use the advanced search with “prints” as classification and the ‘items with images on-line only’ box ticked and you get 29,007 items (and rising). However 22,698 of these are Japanese. No notes, but good images and enlargement. Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya are all nearly complete at close to 1,500 together, but most of their very strong collection of early prints remain without images. Burgkmair has 4, Piranesi 12, Castiglione 9, Whistler 35 and Picasso 63. The impressions and images are excellent. As the “on-line tours” include many items with no images, you might as well use the advanced search by artist, ticking the "with images" box.
San Francisco Museums has images of well over 10,000 prints. The Advanced Search is easy to use and there is excellent coverage of relatively common prints (in museum terms), but it is not a collection for real rarities. Strong on C17/18 artists. The best for prints copying other prints, as everything they have seems to be online. They give a summary artist biography and bibliography. Otherwise only basic cataloguing information is given.
The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC has all prints catalogued on-line, searchable by artist or title, but relatively few have images, and most have no notes. You see a text list of all items by type for the artist first, which saves time. For example they have 10 Schongauer print images (from 106 catalogued). The illustrated impressions are all superb (Mantegna excepted), & they enlarge to a good size. Good on early and rare prints. The Prints & Drawings department page has some links to material (especially on Rembrandt). Other print-related material (Housebook Master etc) can be found from the list of past exhibitions or the on-line tours.
The British Museum Prints & Drawings department has short text factsheets on some Artists and themes, lists of books on prints etc. The British Museum's Compass image database can be searched by artist etc or browsed by the index. Categories under P include seven headings by national school like “prints (German)” which have a total of 182 prints, plus 19 in a separate C20 category, but searching on techniques like “engraving” gets you more bones & jewellery than prints. Each item has excellent notes, and links to a Glossary of terms. Compass has tours on Dürer, Rembrandt, London 1753. There is also BM Images, their commercial picture library site for publishers etc, but where the 530 Prints & Drawings images can be easily browsed. No notes & a different selection of items from the main site.
The Metropolitan Museum, New York takes the opposite approach, categorising initially by nine techniques, which are given overview articles. There are very good and full notes on all topics and images, and the "related content" box at top right shows what else is on the site. Special topics and exhibitions include Italian Mythological Prints, Woodcut Book Illustration in the Italian Renaissance, Dürer, Goltzius, Annibale Caracci etc.
ArtServe - hosted by the Australian National University: Print index links are at heading 4 a couple of screens down, or use the search, which is arranged alphabetically by artist , or subject, technique etc. NB indexes only list the first print of 9 on the page- so click the preceding page to ensure getting all items. This has a lot of images with only basic and rather random info – titles in various languages etc. Generally strong on Baroque, English C18, School of Fontainebleau etc. Image quality varies greatly.
The Cleveland Museum have over 14,000 print catalogue entries on line, but so far only about 3,500 have images. The great majority of these are American artists and Whistler, Winslow Homer and many others are very well covered. But they have not yet done many of the OMP images yet – not even their choice Gulio Campagnola Reclining Venus has an image. Some items with images have decent notes. Most images cannot be zoomed much. Choose “Prints” as both "Classification" and "Department" in the Advanced Search to get a chronological listing of Western prints with images, which hits Goya at about item 300. Or you can search by artist etc.
The Web Gallery of Art (WGA) is good on some artists only – mostly Germans. Prints usually mixed with paintings. Usually no notes, but biographies for all artists copied from somewhere are old but good. Impressions are generally very fine from top collections but web image quality varies.
LACMA: Los Angeles - not a huge collection, but it all seems to be online. Index of artists gives number of items. Images large but low resolution.
Minneapolis Institute of Art have 324 prints each with a paragraph of notes.
The Blanton Museum, Austin: 77 prints (mostly) & drawings with notes.
i) Artists to Goya, ii) A few artists since Goya
Aldegever,Heinrich: 170 images from Soest, with good notes in German.
Bellange: Boston. He only produced 48 prints & I think they show 34 (one a unique impression), plus a couple after him.
Bosse, Abraham: large exhibition at the BNF feature with long notes in French. Click "feuillettoirs" for menu of image groupings by genre. There is a much smaller English version, but start here for non French speakers.
Blake: The William Blake Archive. Hosted by the University of Virginia. A very complete full-on scholarly site, with participation by all major holders of Blake works. Perhaps a little daunting for the casual visitor. The Tate shows 64 prints among much else, and the British Museum has a Blake feature.
Callot: Most of his 1,000 prints must be online between San Francisco (668 including copies etc) and the Biblitheque Municipale de Lyon, who have a special database for their prints. They have 577 images, but including many multiple impressions. For the main series use keywords/titre-série "miseres" (Miseries of War), "balli" (Commedia d'Arte),"prodigue" (Prodigal Son - Lyon only), Vie (Lyon only -gipsies, lives of Mary & Jesus). The RMN
Miseries of War sets from the Army Museum (!) have the clearest images.
Campagnola(s): RNM (below) have 8 by Giulio, 9 by his son Domenico.
Castiglione, GB : San Francisco. The larger prints start on page 3.
Chodowieki: bpk (see E below) have 259 images.
Delaune, Etienne: San Francisco have 90 images.
Dürer: The Web Gallery of Art has all or most prints in good impressions, with notes on the engravings (very closely following Walter Strauss in the Dover book!). Boston for quantity (520, including the Triumphal Arch), but no notes or commentary. For this try the British Museum or the Metropolitan NY. There are good on-line features at Harvard on the 3 Passion Cycles only with comparison screens etc, & UCLA Grunwald on Melencolia 1 only.
Goltzius The Memory of the Netherlands has 318 prints from the Boijmans van Beunigen Museum in Rotterdam, plus more by followers. Plus 62 at LACMA and an exhibition feature at the Metropolitan NY with text and prints.
Goya: The Spanish National Library has all (?) Goya's prints on-line These pages are in Spanish only. Click on a doorway under the names of the published series, or of other groupings. Or Boston, who are very good at giving a variety of translations for the titles, catching all the meanings.
Hogarth: Best is exhibition from Northwestern University with notes.
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili - complete on-line text (469 pages) of the 1499 book from MIT Press/University of Delft. Use "chapter thumbnails" at bottom to find the illustrations by an unknown artist. English summary streams at screen bottom.
Lucas van Leyden The Memory of the Netherlands has 238 prints from the Boijmans van Beunigen Museum in Rotterdam, plus more by followers.
Piranesi: The University of Tokyo has 1140 images from the 1835 Paris edition of his works on-line, with interactive maps,modern photo comparisons of the views and other features. Covers GB & his less-talented son Francisco. A labour of love! Metropolitan NY has a feature.
Marcantonio Raimondi: San Francisco with 65 prints or ArtServe.
Monogrammist Masters: Try Google or Yahoo Images, Boston (ES, Housebook, MZ etc), RMN (pick from long list of "maitre"s), NGA Washington (ES, Housebook, MZ etc), WGA, or Minneapolis, who like to show 1 of everybody they have (Master of 1515 has 3).
Nanteuil, Robert: LACMA have a nice selection of 23 portraits.
Rembrandt: The Rembrandthuis Museum in Amsterdam has an excellent site in English or Dutch. Choose “Collection” and then “Graphical Works” for a wide selection of his prints by subject area, with brief notes. Good on-line etching demo . Boston tour (413 items) is best chance for multiple states, or NGA Washington above.
Ribera, Jusepe de: San Francisco have the most.
Rosa, Salvator: San Francisco have about 90, the largest at the start & end.
Cristofano Robetta: Google Images have 9 prints.
Schongauer, Martin : Joconde (see below) has 70 prints from the Colmar Museum and the Musee Conde at Chantilly. For larger images, try the RMN (31) Web Gallery of Art (14) or NGA Washington (10). The Marian Library at the University of Dayton have 9 prints of the Madonna. Searches often pick up a number of copies of Schongauer’s prints by other artists.
Tempesta, Antonio: 226 images at the LACMA. See Ovid in D below also.
Testa, Pietro: San Francisco have 22 images.
Cassatt: NGA Washington have on-line feature with 12 prints and notes.
Chagall: On-line catalogue raissoné, in English or French, for one-off payment to get password. You decide the amount, then pay by Paypal in French. I have not explored this site. Otherwise RMN (see C below) have 273 prints, mostly late. Many items on Google re forgeries etc.
Daumier: The Daumier Register by Dieter and Lillian Noack is a full on-line catalogue raisonné for over 4,000 prints, in English, French & German. It includes a sophisticated guide for finding particular images. Astonishing! There is a linked Daumier Website with more general information of similar quality - best to start here for an overview. San Francisco have over 500 images, but do not translate the titles/captions. Boston have 83 and do.
Degas: Boston with 35, including several monotypes.
Ensor: Small Getty Museum online exhibition feature with commentary.
Kollwitz: The virtual tour of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Cologne.
Munch: The Munch Museum in Oslo are effectively complete with 748 print images, plus an overview essay, from which highlight titles can be picked. To browse, put in a wide date range in the "Simple Search". English version throughout. An exemplary site!
Picasso: the On-line Picasso Project is very comprehensive. For prints in general Click on ARTWORKS, then SEARCH and either select “Gleiser and Baer”, or "Bloch" (for prints and some drawings) or choose “Medium” in the keyword menu and put etching etc as a keyword. You can then select by year etc. All states and often multiple impressions are shown, but there are not many notes on the prints.
Whistler: the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow seem complete. Use, "etching or drypoint or lithograph" in search to get them all. Short notes; one image per print, so no different states.
Nicely presented exhibition feature with Nolde, Kirchner, Heckel etc.
British Prints The Tate Collection has 13,024 online "on paper, print" items, as they call them. These include photos, but are mostly British prints, especially of the C20 on, though Blake is well covered (64 prints from 168 items). Otherwise, for example: Sir Francis Seymour Haden 1, Sir David Young Cameron 2, Sir Howard Hodgkin 44, Frank Auerbach 15. Most have images, except for the many recent artists where this is not allowed for copyright reasons, eg Graham Sutherland or David Hockney. There are also C20 prints by artists of all nationalities, but coverage is somewhat unpredictable: Picasso 20, Matisse 2, Munch 0. Good index and sometimes brief notes. For Portraits only, the National Portrait Gallery has 6,641 print images. See D) below for Satirical Prints.
Dutch and Flemish Prints The Memory of the Netherlands is a huge project with all sorts of content, like the US Library of Congress American Memory. It includes a very large on-line collection of C16 Graphic Art from the Boijmans van Beunigen Museum in Rotterdam , which will be easily the first choice for all artists covered, and a smaller collection of mostly C18 Dutch prints on political and social themes. Most pages have an English version. Images are large and of high quality. I find this site sometimes does not work (no search results are returned), especially outside Dutch office hours. Other features (Atlantic World, childrens prints and books) include prints also. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is all in English and has many prints (mostly Dutch and Flemish) under various themes or artists names. The site design is not for the nervous, or the easily irritated.
French Prints Joconde is the combined site for the French museums. It is suberb for drawings, but comparatively few prints are illustrated. However when prints are illustrated, there are often large numbers. It is all in French; full cataloguing info is given, but usually no notes. "Recherche par listes" is probably the easiest way in. "estampes" means prints. The images are not very large or at a very high resolution. The Reunion des Musees Nationaux (RMN) is the commercial picture library site, but has an English version and has more images for some artists, like Jean Duvet (7). Prints can be specified in the "Collections" box on the search page. Image size is good, but quality is variable. It includes many prints from the Edmond Rothschild Collection in the Louvre, which are not on Joconde or the Louvre site (which is also superb for drawings, but print-free). The principal French collection at The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris is not included in either Joconde or RNM. Its own site is all in French after a page or two. Put “Estampes” in the “type de document” box at "recherche" to get 76 prints with a French emphasis and good notes in French. But that is all, except for exhibition features in English on Bosse, Bresdin. and C20 print portraits (click on "the exhibition" after intro). The Bibliotheque Municipale de Lyon are strong on C17 prints, although their images are an odd pink colour: Callot, Claude Mellan (43). ArtServe for the School of Fontainebleau.
Books, Early woodcuts in - Exhibitions from the Library of Congess of the Lessing Rosenwald collection and of Woodcut Book Illustration in the Italian Renaissance from the Metropolitan, NY. See also Ovid below.
Coloured and Painted Prints Online feature from 2003 Baltimore exhibition with 16 mostly early prints, notes and other info. Also they have a feature on Toulouse-Lautrec prints & posters. NGA Washington show exhibition features on C18 French colour prints and Origins of European Printmaking- C15 Woodcuts and their public. All of Audubon's Birds of America from the Musée de la Civilisation in French & English, with index.
English Satirical & Political Prints: Mostly 1660-1860. Huge (11,000+) on-line collection at the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale. Excellent zoom, so you can read the speech bubbles. Searching is restricted to date (eg put 794 in catalogue field for 1794) or keyword (not including artist name), and there are no tours or text beyond basic catalogue info. From Lewis & Clark College there is a fully illustrated catalogue of British Mezzotint Satires in American Collections which has excellent commentary by J Hart. All these are 1760-1800 & mostly social rather than political satires - "drolls". Gilray - The NY Public Library has an exhibition feature with about 60 images, and notes ("checklist") on separate pages. There is not enough zoom to read the longer speech captions.
Festival Books - that is to say commemorative books describing triumphal entries, coronations and the like. Mostly C16 and C17 and often illustrated. The British Library have fully digitized 253 books, mainly English, Italian & French. The Advanced Search lists illustrations by type, but I find this by no means picks up all the illustrations that browsing reveals. Large amounts of contextual material. There are also 314 mostly German examples at the German Federal Library, HAB Wolfenbüttel, where both collections can be searched using an ICONCLASS Index in English.
German Anti-Catholic prints of the Reformation by Alois Payer. You'll have time to go to Mass while the site loads.
Maximilian I's print projects: San Francisco have most of the Triumph of Maximilian (search on this), but not the Dürer pages, which are here at Stanford with good articles on that and the Triumphal Arch - for which see Boston under Dürer. Search on "Weiss Kunig" for 22 images at LACMA .
Northern Mannerism- Allegorical Print Series. Sophisticated feature from exhibition at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, with 221 prints and commentary in German. Index of works included here. Or The Memory of the Netherlands.
Ovid Illustrated Large site from the University of Virgina with cycles of book illustrations by Saloman, Virgil Solis, Tempesta, Goltzius and more - C13 to 1958. Home page is slightly scary; Ovid cycles in table form here is easier.
Portrait Prints The National Portrait Gallery has 6,641 print images, essentially of British persons. The Fitzwilliam has c1,000, mostly C17, of British and European notables by eg Faithorne 241, de Passe family c200, de Leu 174. Otherwise see section C, or try Google or Yahoo images.
Venetian C18 prints all in Italian, covering 20 "artisti" with perhaps a total of 50 images, and a page of biography and commentary on each artist.
Women in Prints: Good feature from a 2003 exhibition at the Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia on "The Power of Woe, the Power of Life; Images of Women in Prints from the Renaissance to the Present “. All items have commentary below the enlarged view.
Two Museum-based picture library sites have been described above: RMN from France and BM Images from the British Museum. The Berlin Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz (bpk) should also be mentioned, although I find the search facility frustrating to use. Click on >> for "go". Searches that ought to produce results often do not, perhaps because of excessive traffic. Once you have found a search producing results, there is a fuller search facility when you click on an individual item - but this still produces unpredictable results. It has many images from the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett - eg Rembrandt 121, Schongauer 12, Munch about 30, Chodwiecki 259. There is an excellent zoom, which comes with a very intrusive watermark. The first and help pages are in English, after that it is all in German: "kupferstich" is engraving, "radierung" is etching.
None of the purely commercial picture libraries are currently worth looking at for prints in my experience, except http://www.bildindex.de/ of Foto Marburg. All in German, and mostly objects from German museums, especially those produced by Germans. Mostly scans of black & white photos, so quality not the best.
Google images will produce a large number of unsorted images but can be useful for less famous artists who did not paint too much as well, and do not share their name with a Italian ski resort etc. Or if you want to see paintings and prints together. It also enables you to peek at some private databases - eg Columbia (follow the redirected search link) and Amica (thumbnail size only). Any images from the Metropolitan NY, NGA Washington and WGA should show up, but not those from most other collections above. It is the best choice for many early artists like IB Palumba (3). Many images picked up by the search will not actually be by the artist; he or she is just mentioned nearby in the text. Yahoo Images produces similar but fewer results, but black & white images only can be selected, which gives a higher proportion of relevant results.
Terms: Many sites above have good information on terms, but the fullest coverage (though with a bias to modern prints) is at the International Fine Print Dealers Association, whose members are the top end of dealers in original prints. André Béguin has a very detailed site for printmaking technical printing terms. Otherwise Kansas below or our own shorter list.
Techniques: The Metropolitan NY has historical articles on the main ones. See the on-line etching demo at the Rembrandthuis. There is a MOMA NY interactive demonstration feature covering Woodcut, Lithography, Etching and Screenprint but this relates more to modern prints than old masters – eg: the woodcut demo has the printing being done with the back of a spoon.
Mezzotint: the National Portrait Gallery has a large feature with lots of text.
Original prints: The prints in most public collections can be seen more easily than people often realize, but the hours are usually limited. See the website of your local large museum for 'Print Study Room' etc. Here is a list of links to significant collections worldwide from Delineavit et Sculpsit, and from the Print Alliance a longer list of print rooms in the USA & Canada.
The numbers quoted are for contemporary prints only.
Findartinfo.com has auction prices of original prints which can be sorted by title, medium etc. Unsold items often have the estimate. These data are useful if it is remembered that prices vary hugely depending on the quality, condition and date of the impression, as can be seen here in many cases. Here is an article on collecting original old master prints; there is also much on this on the Daumier Website. NY dealer Harris Schrank has written useful articles for the beginner, including ones on Goya and Rembrandt.
Further suggestions please!
Jusepe de Ribera
Giulio Campagnola (attributed)
Hans Baldung Grien
Jusepe de Ribera