“The Brilliant Line” at the RISD Museum of Art

Last Friday I took my Drawing I class from Wellesley College on a field trip to the RISD Museum of Art’s current exhibition “The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver“. Emily Peters, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the RISD Museum and Andrew Raftery, Associate Professor of Printmaking at RISD led a gallery talk at the exhibition for my Drawing class. Their combined expertise in the many layers of engraving: the technical process, historical context, etc. made for an exciting talk.

What struck me as wonderfully unique about this exhibition was it’s ability to reach both ends of the spectrum in terms of an audience.  One could attend this exhibition with no knowledge of engraving and come away with a deep understanding of the medium.  At the same time, people who are highly knowledgeable and experienced in printmaking will find extraordinary depth in the exhibition as well.  The exhibition is accompanied by a terrific interactive exhibition website which features Raftery’s analysis of line systems and divergent styles of the engravings in this show. Display cases were featured throughout the exhibition showing the tools and materials involved in the engraving process.

Towards the end of the gallery talk was an amazing selection of prints by French engraver Claude Mellan and an astonishing portrait by another French engraver Robert Nanteuil. Mellan’s work seemed particularly distinctive within the context of the exhibition, his work was as much about the lines he chose as areas of negative space.

Albrecht Durer, Madonna with the Pear, 1511, engraving


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