The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy

Resnick Pavilion
June 3, 2018–September 16, 2018
The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy

Displaying exquisite designs, technical virtuosity, and sumptuous color, chiaroscuro woodcuts are among the most striking prints of the Renaissance. First introduced in Italy around 1516, the chiaroscuro woodcut, which involves printing an image from two or more woodblocks inked in different hues, was one of the most successful early forays into color printing in Europe. Taking its name from the Italian for “light” (chiaro) and “shade” (scuro), the technique creates the illusion of depth through tonal contrasts.

Over the course of the century, the chiaroscuro woodcut underwent sophisticated technical advancements in the hands of talented printmakers such as Ugo da Carpi, Antonio da Trento, Niccolò Vicentino, Nicolò Boldrini, and Andrea Andreani, and engaged some of the most celebrated painters of the time, including Titian, Raphael, and Parmigianino. The medium evolved in format, scale, and subject, testifying to the vital interest of artists and collectors in the range of aesthetic possibilities it offered.

For this first major presentation of the subject in the United States, some 100 rare chiaroscuro woodcuts will be brought together alongside related drawings, engravings, and sculpture. With its accompanying scholarly catalogue, The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy explores the materials and means of its production, offering a fresh perspective on the remarkable art of the chiaroscuro woodcut.

The exhibition is organized by LACMA in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in association with the National Gallery of Art.

Generous support provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Additional support provided by the Wallis Annenberg Director’s Endowment Fund.

Additional participation provided by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles and the International Fine Print Dealers Association.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman and Meredith and David Kaplan, with generous annual funding from Jerry and Kathleen Grundhofer, the Judy and Bernard Briskin Family Foundation, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross, David Lloyd and Kimberly Steward, David Schwartz Foundation, Inc., and Lenore and Richard Wayne.

Image: Ugo da Carpi after Francesco Parmigianino, Diogenes, c. 1527, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Philippa Calnan in memory of her mother Matilda Loeser Calnan, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Casting New Light on Renaissance Prints

Studying Renaissance prints, I am continuously astonished by the survival of these delicate works of art on paper, more often than not in remarkably fine condition. This is particularly true in the case of chiaroscuro woodcuts, which are some of the rarest prints of the period.