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Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg

Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna

The Sackler Wing of Galleries

15 March 8 June 2014

2009-2016 Season supported by: Supported by:

Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and

the Albertina, Vienna will examine the artistic development of the revolutionary, yet short lived,

printing technique of the chiaroscuro woodcut in the sixteenth century. Often based on designs by

celebrated Renaissance masters such as Parmigianino, Raphael and Titian depicting well-known

biblical scenes and legends, chiaroscuro woodcuts were the first colour prints that made dramatic

use of light and shadow chiaroscuro to suggest form, volume and depth. The exhibition will

present over 100 rare prints by artists from Germany, Italy and The Netherlands held at the Albertina

Museum in Vienna and in the personal collection of the Honorary Royal Academician, Georg


In the early 1500s, several printmakers competed to claim authorship of the chiaroscuro woodcut. In

Germany, the artist Lucas Cranach even back-dated two of his works to prove that he had invented

the new technique. It is however widely thought that the first known example came from his

compatriot Hans Burgkmair the Elder, with his depiction of Emperor Maximilian on Horseback, 1508,

commissioned on the year of his coronation. This novel, complex printing method involved

supplementing the black line block (the key block) with one or several tone blocks to create

gradations of colour from light to dark for aesthetic effect. The result produced greater depth,

plasticity of form, atmosphere and pictorial quality than the earlier, plainer woodcuts. The making of

chiaroscuro woodcuts involved collaboration between the artist, responsible for drawing the design,

and the craftsman, whose role was to carve it in relief on the woodblock. St George and the Dragon,

c. 1508–10, for instance, is signed by both Burgkmair and the Antwerp woodcutter, Jost de Negker.

The chiaroscuro woodcut was adopted by other German artists, including Hans Baldung Grien and

Hans Wechtlin from the circle of Albrecht Dürer, and subsequently further developed in Italy and the

Netherlands. A few years after its invention in Germany, the celebrated Italian artist Ugo da Carpi,

who also claimed to have pioneered the medium, made his mark with such works as The Miraculous

Draught of Fishes, c. 1523–27, and Archimedes (?), c. 1518-1520 after Raphael. Unlike his Northern

European counterparts, Ugo da Carpi cut his own woodblocks and increasingly avoided the use of

the black key block, working exclusively with tone blocks. His innovative use of the chiaroscuro

woodcut, such as unevenly cut colour fields led to works that have a more painterly character, as if

they had been modelled in colour and light. His successors, Antonio da Trento and Niccolò Vicentino

advanced the technique and influenced other artists such as Domenico Beccafumi in Siena and

Andrea Andreani, whose Rape of a Sabine Woman, 1584, inspired by Giambologna’s famous

sculpture in Florence and printed in several versions, will be on display.

The technical potential of the chiaroscuro woodcut was also explored in the Netherlands, particularly

in the highly sophisticated work of Hendrik Goltzius, the medium’s most important proponent there.

Highlights by the artist in the exhibition include the powerful Hercules Killing Cacus, 1588 and

Goltzius’ remarkable series of landscapes and deities, comprising Landscape with Trees and a

Shepherd Couple, c. 1593–98 and Bacchus, c. 1589–90.

Chiaroscuro woodcuts were collected across Europe; from inexpensive versions sold by monks to

travelling pilgrims to costly impressions commissioned by aristocratic patrons and connoisseurs.

Whether conceived as independent compositions or reproductions of works in other media, the

woodcuts were enjoyed in their own right and admired for their sheer technical brilliance and visual

power. They were also an effective means of disseminating popular subjects, kingly images and the

celebrated creations of the great Renaissance artists.


Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and

the Albertina, Vienna, has been organised in association with the Albertina, Vienna and the Royal

Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Achim Gnann, curator, the

Albertina, and by Dr Arturo Galansino, exhibitions curator, Royal Academy of Arts.

The Albertina in Vienna holds one of the world’s greatest museum collections of works on paper

comprising over 50,000 Old Master drawings and nearly one million graphic works of art ranging from

the late Gothic period to the present day. Its chiaroscuro print collection, and indeed the Albertina

itself, was formed with the collection of the founder of the museum, Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen

(1738-1822) which was joined by the holdings of the Imperial Court Library after the first World War

in 1920, after the demise of the monarchy.

The German artist Georg Baselitz Hon RA (born 1938) has had a long fascination with the print

medium, and most specifically chiaroscuro woodcuts which he began collecting in earnest from 1965

when he was first exposed to the works when taking up a scholarship at the German Academy at the

Villa Romana in Florence. Some of his own work has been directly informed by the imagery and

technique employed in these sixteenth-century woodcuts.


The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Dr Achim Gnann

and Dr David Ekserdjian.


Press View: Tuesday 11 March 2014

Open to public: 15 March – 18 June 2014

10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm)

Fridays until 10 pm (last admission 9.30pm)


£10 full price; concessions available; children under 12 free; Friends of the RA go free


Tickets for Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg

Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna, are available daily at the RA or visit

Group bookings: Groups of 10+ are asked to book in advance. Telephone 020 7300 8027 or email


Publicity images for Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of

Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna, can be obtained from Picselect, the Press Association’s

image service for press use. Please register at and once registered go to the

Royal Academy folder in the Arts section of Picselect.


Sign up to Royal Academy of Arts social media channels. @royalacademy #RARenaissance


Main Galleries

24 – 27 April 2014

Press View: Wednesday 23 April, 5.30 – 6.30pm

Coinciding with Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of

Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna, the London Original Print Fair (LOPF) will be held in the

Main Galleries. Now in its 29th year, LOPF is the world’s longest running specialist fair dedicated to

prints. With over 50 international exhibitors, the fair offers a rare opportunity to buy affordable works

as well as masterpieces from across five centuries.


The Royal Academy of Arts was founded by King George III in 1768. It has a unique position in being

an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to

be a clear, strong voice for art and artists. Its public programme promotes the creation, enjoyment

and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.

For further press information, please contact Alexandra Bradley on tel: 020 7300 5615 or email

For public information, please print 020 7300 8000 or

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J OBD 17/12/2013