Printed Worlds

An exhibition on landscape and place, curated by Alice Riley ’23, the Blick-Harris Study Collection Curatorial Intern, Spring 2022.

September 14, 2022 – February 3, 2023

While images of specific places were included in some of the earliest printed works, most notably the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), the European and American imperialist mindsets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries resulted in the explosion of print media depicting landscapes. Pictorial languages alienated natural landscapes, and artists scrambled to create worlds distinct from their own communities. When viewing landscape representations, weighing the documentary qualities we assign to these images is critical, as certain elements are bound to be manufactured for dramatic effect or to promote a specific narrative.

One of the limitations of this exhibition is the lack of diversity among the artists: all are White men. This means that, as viewers, we are exposed to the version of the landscape they constructed to enforce an agenda. These artists took control over how a space was depicted, whether that meant crafting a place through specific pictorial strategies to elevate it, by referencing the “great civilizations” of Greece and Rome, or framing nature as “wild and untamed.” Thus, they proposed strict opposition between Western spaces of civility and “othered” primitive spaces.

These Blick-Harris Study Collection prints, which highlight three different printmaking techniques – etching, engraving, and lithography – were selected to show the varied uses for print media in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The exhibition is divided into three categories: travel literature, educational materials, and fine art, each category demonstrating a different artistic intervention in print media.

As you examine this selection, think about the purpose of each print, keeping in mind the reproducible and multiple nature of the medium. How would each piece have functioned in its contemporary setting? Additionally, think about the emotional response each piece solicits from you; do you think this response would remain stable across viewers and their perception based on the individual viewer and their perceptions of land?

I would like to thank Olivia Rataezyk and professors Calvin, Courtois de Viçose, and Hostetler, along with Sydney Fender and the Gund Gallery staff, for aiding in my research this semester. This project would not have been possible without all of their help and support.

John Octavius Anderson (American, 1856-1898)

Untitled (Where the River Meets the Sea), 1890
23 2/3 x 9 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.11
Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (Italian, 1697-1768)

View of a Town on a River Bank, c. 18th century
211/4 x 17 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.73

As a medium, printmaking is used in a myriad of contexts and for a multitude of purposes. Individual viewers may imbue prints with different and thus unstable meanings, underscoring the malleable nature of printed media. In Canaletto’s View of a Town on a River Bank, the artist depicted Venice’s Grand Canal. This image could be understood as aimed at the tourist market, but Canaletto’s politics permeate the piece. Although Venice was a center of art in the eighteenth century, Canaletto decided to depict the Canal empty, which alluded to the decline of the city’s prominence and wealth as a trading center. The surrounding crumbling buildings and bridges situate Venice in the past, connecting it to the well-known fractured antique statuary, gesturing to Canaletto’s appeal for modernization.
George William Casilear (American, 1826-1912), artist
Waterman Lilly Ormsby (American, 1809-1883), engraver

The City of San Francisco, ca. 1852
5 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.5
unknown American artist

Farmers Raking Hay, n.d.
21 5/16 x 9 3/16 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.13
Francis Fitzgerald (British, 18 c.)
Charles Taylor (British, 1756-1823)

Principles of Landscape, 1787
7 1/4 x 9 1/2 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.33

These three prints, here set side by side, would have been individual pages accompanied by textual instructions in the Artist’s Repository and Drawing Magazine. Like other eighteenth century drawing guides, it utilized printing technology as a way to show mark-making, while also allowing for mass-production of the manuals.

These prints emphasize a “natural” English landscape, one with trees and old structures, alluding to the rich cultural history of the country. Additionally, it highlights picturesque landscapes and the naturalistic aesthetic conventions the English deemed to be sophisticated. Created at a time when the English market was beginning to include images of far-off places, Principles demonstrated the nationalistic desire to create an uniquely-English landscape, one which stresses a deep history while also celebrating modernity and an investment in artistic education.
John Hill Millspaugh (American, 1822-1894)
Based on photograph by Clifton Johnson (American, 1865-1940)

Fisherman Walking up the Path to the Farmhouse, 1880
13 1/4 x 27 1/2 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.1

Due to the reproducibility of the medium, printmaking historically lacked the prestige afforded to other artforms. Yet, the autographic qualities of etching (the engraver creates marks directly into the surface, likening the method to drawing) resulted in the process being perceived as more closely related to high art. Millspaugh partnered with Johnson to create an etching based on the latter’s photograph in an effort to take a medium characterized by duplication and, through a similarly stigmatized reproducible process, create something unique. Both artists focused on creating horizontal, pastoral scenes that perpetuated the artistic tradition of the picturesque at a time when society was beginning to focus on the urban landscape.
David Roberts RA (Scottish, 1796-1864), artist
Louis Haghe (Belgian, 1806-1885), lithographer

Obelisk at Alexandria, Commonly Called Cleopatra’s Needle, 1838
14 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.38

Originally published and distributed individually through a subscription service, Obelisk at Alexandria is part of David Roberts’ The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, and Nubia, which contained 250 lithographic prints based on watercolors by Roberts. When compiled, the series consists of six volumes and Obelisk is plate 146 (found in volume four).
During the Victorian Era, travel literature became an increasingly important and popular form of entertainment. Consumers were interested in the depictions of far-away locales, especially those recently conquered through imperialism.

The chromatic choices construct an arid, far-away place, where architecture blends into scenery. Egyptians figures are shown sitting around, remarking on their purported docility in Orientalist thinking. Prints like this one epitomize English pictorial imagination which simultaneously stresses the greatness of Ancient Egypt while discussing the perceived ineptitude of its contemporary inhabitants. This imagined narrative claimed that these individuals ignored their archeological heritage and proposed that the British – and other Western powers – would better preserve and appreciate these monuments. For example, the obelisks shown in this print (one still erect while the other lies fallen in the foreground creating a bridge), are no longer in Egypt. Rather, one has been re-erected in Central Park in New York and the other has been installed in the Victoria Embankment in London, contributing to the all-too-familiar history of imperial powers removing artifacts from colonies to be placed in the formers’ museums. They wished to tell the stories of other nations, although these pictorial narratives contained legible imperial messaging.
James David Smillie (American, 1833-1909), artist
Edward Paxman Brandard (British, 1819-1898), engraver

Mount Shasta, 1873
steel engraving from Picturesque American
18 x 14 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.6

Picturesque American, a multi-volume book edited by William Cullen Bryant, combines descriptions and engravings describing the American landscape. The series was credited with having an influence on the growth of tourism to natural areas. The prints were also sold as individual copies through a subscription service before being bound into their respective volumes.

Mount Shasta was engraved by Paxman Brandard and depicts the inactive volcano located on the border between California and Oregon. The snow covered mountain peak dominates the landscape as it looms through clouds and over pine trees. In the foreground, several Native Americans ride their horses away from teepees. The area surrounding Mount Shasta is the ancestral homelands of the Shasta, Achumawi, and Modoc tribes, all of whom lived in a variety of more permanent shelters rather than in teepees. The latter, which can be constructed and disassembled with ease, were more common among Plains Indigenous nations. This dismissal of cultural accuracy in favor of familiar stereotypes of the “wild Other” demonstrates the print’s function of entertainment, while making claims to knowledge and information about a place and its people.
Charles Taylor (British, 1756-1823)

Perspective, 1787
engraving from The Artists’ Repository and Drawing Magazine
7 1/4 x 9 1/2 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.43
John Varley (British, 1778-1842)

series of Etchings showing Principles of Landscape, 1850
6 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.46
unknown British artist

View of Dinas-Bran-Castle in the Country of Denbright, 1779
engraving from The Modern Universal British Traveler
14 1/2 x 18 inches
Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.26

About the Curator: Originally from New Hampshire, Alice Riley ’23 is a current history major with an art history minor. In addition to her academics, she is a member of the cross country and track and field teams and over the summer works as a hiking guide at a summer camp.