The No. 1 exhibit at SU Art Galleries this fall is unquestionably a large undertaking. Meant To Be Shared: Selections from the Arthur Ross Collection of Prints at the Yale University Art Collection not only displays dozens of prints. It also spans three centuries, moves from Italy to Spain to France, and explores subjects including architecture, bullfighting and the horrors of war. And it presents a bunch of etchings, aquatints, lithographs and other pieces.
Too much to be comfortably digested? Hardly. The show is divided into specific segments and has detailed captions accompanying the artworks.
First, it showcases prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, which focus on ancient and 18th-century Rome. Look for his work depicting the Piazza of St. Peter’s in the Vatican and his “Prisons” series portraying imaginary buildings.
While there are many prints portraying temples, columns and pantheons, Meant To Be Shared does encompass other topics. Francesco Piranesi’s beautiful print depicts fireworks, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s “Flight into Egypt” references a Biblical narrative: the escape of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus from persecution.
Next, the exhibition presents prints by Francisco Goya, a Spanish artist who lived through turbulent times. French troops invaded Spain and massacred many civilians, French and British troops fought on Spanish soil during the so-called “Peninsular War,” and the return of the monarchy signaled the beginning of an era of harsh political repression.
Goya both satirized societal mores and railed against the tragedy of warfare. In “This Is What You Were Born For,” a man stumbles near a pile of corpses; it’s clear that he will be the next to die. “Against The Common Good” portrays a creature writing in a book as citizens beg him for mercy. In “Barbarians,” soldiers make war against everyday people. Goya’s “Disasters of War” etchings weren’t printed and exhibited during his lifetime because he feared retribution by the king’s agents.
In addition, the show presents prints by Goya and Pablo Picasso delving into many aspects of bullfighting. Picasso’s “The Tossing” shows a bullfighter thrust into the air.
A third section features a group of French artists whose influence extends well beyond their lifetimes. For example, Honore Daumier’s caricatures predated political cartoons and the general realm of political satire. He took aim at a variety of targets, including King Louis-Philippe, who is depicted as a clown in one print. Another work, titled “The Legislative Belly,” portrays an assembly of 35 French legislators; they are inactive, ineffective, useless.
Beyond that, several prints document illustrations used in books or magazines. These include Edouard Manet’s works used in “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, Eugene Delacroix’s illustrations depicting scenes from Hamlet, and a magazine cover done by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
And there are other notable artworks created by French artists. The show presents Henri Matisse’s lithograph, “Dancer on a Stool,” Manet’s color lithograph, “Pollichelle,” and a landscape by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. The exhibition is only sampling their artworks, but it does a nice job of integrating work by various well-known artists.
In viewing a large exhibit like Meant To Be Shared, there’s no need to focus on every work. Instead, it’s best to enjoy the show as a whole and a slew of interesting individual pieces such as the Nolli map, Canaletto’s depiction of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and Daumier’s “Bluestockings,” which finds humor in domestic life.
SU Art Galleries has scheduled extensive programming in connection with Meant To Be Shared. The Wednesday lunchtime lectures at 12:15 p.m. will cover the Giovani Battista Piranesi artworks on Oct. 11; Goya’s work on Oct. 25; and the French prints on Nov. 8. A special program for children and families will be held on Oct. 21 and 22 at 2 p.m. All programs are free and open to the public.
The gallery, located in the Shaffer Art Building on the Syracuse University campus, is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call (315) 443-4097.