In the fall of 2012, the Arthur Ross Foundation bequeathed 1,200 European prints to the Yale University Art Gallery.
Now, three years later, “Meant to Be Shared: Selections from the Arthur Ross Collection of European Prints” brings together an assortment of pieces from Ross’ collection, including French, Spanish and Italian pieces by artists such as Édouard Manet, Francisco de Goya and Giovanni Battista Piranesi dating from the 17th to 20th centuries. The show, organized by Suzanne Boorsch, the Robert L. Solley curator of prints and drawings at the YUAG, and Heather Nolin, assistant director of exhibitions, programming and education, marks the first time the works have been exhibited at the gallery. The exhibition, which will remain on view at the YUAG through April 24, will be accompanied by educational programs such as gallery talks and lectures by scholars. Boorsch said one of the exhibition’s major aims is to make prints seem “more accessible” to exhibit-goers.
“A lot of people aren’t as in tune with looking at prints and understanding the wealth of cultural and historical richness of prints,” Boorsch explained. “We hope that this exhibition encourages people to look at prints more often.”
Spanning two floors, the exhibition presents pieces by Francisco de Goya, the first artist Ross collected, alongside 18th-century Italian prints and works by celebrated 19th-century French artists. Most of the show’s pieces are shown in complete sets, which presents a rare opportunity for visitors to encounter them displayed in full. An impressively scaled 1748 map of Rome by 18th-century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi anchors the exhibition’s top floor, reflecting one of the Ross Collection’s most important aspects. Boorsch said its large number of Piranesi prints signals the collector’s passion for classicism and the city of Rome. Boorsch said the work — which is accompanied by enlarged views of several famous Roman monuments highlighted in the map itself, such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum — is one of her favorite pieces in the exhibition.
“We had a lot of fun with that piece,” Boorsch noted. “We took the densest sections of the map and enlarged it with 22 Piranesi views all keyed to their location on the map.”
In addition to works by Goya and Piranesi, “Meant to Be Shared” includes Édouard Manet’s illustrations of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Edgar Degas’ “The Infanta Margarita” and Capricci prints on loan from the Ross family.
Visitors to the exhibit said that they were excited by the opportunity “Meant to be Shared” presents to broaden their knowledge of the print as an artistic medium.
Aria Pearlman Morales ’18 said that prior to seeing the show, she was only familiar with the “war-inspired works” of Goya’s “Disasters of War” series. She added that the exhibition introduced her to many new artists and prints, and expressed particular interest in “Death Giving Audience,” from the “Vari Capricci” series.
“It was an intriguing and almost humorous visual personification of death,” Pearlman Morales explained.
Daniel Staskawicz ’17 said he thinks that although “Meant to Be Shared” only displays a small portion of the entire Ross Collection, it is an important step in making the group of works more accessible to the public.
“Meant to Be Shared” remains on view at the YUAG through April 24.
In 2017, “Meant to be Shared” will travel to the University of Florida’s Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and the Syracuse University Art Galleries.