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Impressions: The Inventions of Printmaking

ON VIEW:  September 22, 2021 - February 27, 2022

Featuring works on paper and fabric from the Neuberger Museum of Art’s permanent collection, Impressions: The Inventions of Printmaking navigates a rich history of printmaking from relief to intaglio to planographic processes.


Printmaking is a rich and varied tradition, the heart of which is the reproduction of repeated imagery. Children make handprints by soaking their palms (and often their clothes) and then placing them on sheets of posterboard or newsprint, over and over again in different colors. Their sports teams receive t-shirts with the name of the local pizza parlor that sponsored them this year. When they go to the supermarket, inside they see advertisements for discounts on cat food and cereals. They, like all of us, live in an ecosystem of repeated imagery or multiples.

Artists adopted multiples as a mode of making artwork centuries ago. And the key to their ability to produce multiples is the matrix, the solid object from which prints are pulled. Matrices vary in materials. Originally, carving into wood was the most common way to create a matrix. With the advent of the industrial revolution and the ability to manipulate harder materials such as copper and steel, metal began to be used in a variety of ways. Chemical applications and the development of various solvents changed the way prints were made even further. The history of printmaking is correspondent to the technological developments of our time.

But then, there is the creativity of the artist. This is the wonderful wildcard, the mixing and matching of techniques, old and new. The mixing and matching of pigments and glues. The inventiveness that comes from looking at the blank sheet of paper and wondering, what will I do with this. That creativity is what makes printmaking endlessly inventive and endlessly interesting to experience.

Impressions: The Inventions of Printmaking is curated by Neuberger Director Tracy Fitzpatrick and organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art. Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Roy R. Neuberger Legacy Program Endowment and City National Bank.