Printing Women: Three Centuries of Female Printmakers, 1570–1900

Centered around a collection not exhibited since 1901, Printing Women: Three Centuries of Female Printmakers showcases 84 printed works of art, spanning the period  from 1570 to 1900, all by female printmakers. Opening at the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street on October 2, the free show demonstrates that women have played an integral role in the print medium from its beginnings.

The collection -- assembled by forward-thinking collector Henrietta Louisa Koenen (1830-1881) and now held as part of The New York Public Library’s renowned research collections -- includes prints executed by experts and  amateurs alike. Highlights from the show include works created by:

  • Historical figures such as Queen Victoria and Madame de Pompadour, who counted printmaking among their leisure pastimes and circulated their prints among friends, family and acquaintances. Queen Victoria, introduced to the medium by her husband Prince Albert, would often create prints that offered intimate glimpses into her domestic life.

  • Well known artists of the medium such as Angelica Kauffman and Maria Cosway. A print by Cosway, featured in the show, was actually a suggestive gift to Thomas Jefferson, with whom she had developed an intimate relationship while the American diplomat was in Europe.

  • Maria Sybilla Merian, Esther Inglis and an Geronima Parasole, whose works are held in the Library’s renowned Spencer Collection.

“Physically demanding and technically challenging, printmaking had often been considered man’s labor. However, Henrietta Louisa Koenen’s collection, put together well before twentieth-century revisionist accounts of art history were written, shows us that printmaking in particular has always been an art in which women actively engaged,” said exhibition and NYPL Prints Collection curator Madeleine Viljoen.

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