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USING THE COLLECTIONS
Not only did the copyright deposit program bring the array of prints found in the Popular Graphic Arts Collection to the Library, it also bolstered the division's substantial holdings of nineteenth-century etchings, which were incorporated into the Fine Prints Collection (100,000 items, ca. 1480s-present), joining a rich assemblage of prints deriving from two major bequests. In 1898, Gertrude M. Hubbard donated an important group of Old Masters and nineteenth-century prints, as well as funds that were used to build the Fine Prints Collection further.
In 1926, Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, who had long collaborated in promoting the art of printmaking, exhibited similar generosity (see Collections Formed by Women in the Rare Book and Special Collections section for more about the Pennells' contributions). They contributed to the division Joseph Pennell's own prints, as well as works by other artists, and established a fund that has proven vital to the division's collecting efforts. The earliest prints in the Fine Prints Collection are European in origin, but a major strength of the collection is in American prints from the 1870s to the 1950s, as well as in more contemporary works from the 1980s onward. In addition to purchases and gifts, the division holds a substantial number of prints produced under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (later known as the Work Projects Administration).
Prints have been referred to as the “democratic art” because they provide a means of making works of art widely available. As with some of the other popular art media, such as posters and book and magazine illustrations, prints have historically been a democratic medium in the sense that they early offered a field in which women artists could flourish. The study and practice of art in traditional public arenas such as guilds, academies, and studios remained off-limits to most women until the mid-nineteenth century. Around that time, art schools began extending admission to female students, bringing increasing numbers of women creators into the mainstream of the art world. The division's holdings reflect this history.
The Fine Prints Collection offers researchers examples of works by nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American artists such as:
The work of twentieth-century women printmakers constitutes a particular strength, reflecting their contributions to major art-historical styles, including social realism, regionalism, and abstract expressionism. These names represent a small sampling of the women artists whose work is found in the Fine Prints Collection:
Selections by the Pennell Committee enable the division to continue to develop its holdings of prints by women and minority artists. The recent acquisition of the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Foundation Collection has also enriched the division's holdings of works by women printmakers. (As with other collections that have not yet been prepared for public service, access to the Goldstein materials and to the work of a few of the other women mentioned above is by special, advance arrangement.)
Depictions of Women
In addition to documenting the work of women artists, the Fine Prints Collection reflects an ongoing interest in women as subject matter. Throughout the history of Western art, women have claimed attention in two particular respects: as representatives of idealized beauty and as symbols of motherhood. Many of Mary Cassatt's best-known works, for instance, deal with these themes, while also reflecting her interest in Japanese aesthetics. Other prints in the collection document aspects of women's experience ranging beyond figure studies or maternal themes. Two examples from the World War II era are Jolán Gross-Bettelheim's Home Front, the Czech-born artist's industrialist twist on the American icon “Rosie the Riveter,” which renders the defense workers as anthropomorphic elements of the machines on which they work (FP—XX—Gross-Bettelheim [J.], no. 3 [B size]; Repro. no. LCUSZ62-87989) and Caroline Durieux's (1896-1989) depiction of Bourbon Street entertainers in wartime New Orleans (FP—XX—D910, no. 4 [A size]; Repro. no. LC-USZ62-88026/LC-USZC2-3688).
For rights information, see: http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/print/res/375.html.
Searching the Collection
Many images for which copy negatives or transparencies exist can be searched in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog where the collection has its own listing. Digitized images generally accompany the records.
To look for images for which no online record exists, onsite researchers can consult the following.
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