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Rowlandson's Etching Proofs for Ackermann's 'Microcosm of London'

DATES May 29, 1939 through October 01, 1939
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
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  • Robert Longo
    Born 1953

    Robert Longo was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated high school in 1970, the year of the Kent State University Massacre in Ohio. One of the students who was killed by the National Guard was a former classmate of Longo’s, and the death was documented in a photograph that became symbolic of the era’s social unrest. This formative moment inspired the artist to begin examining the power of pictures.

    Traveling in Europe in 1972, Longo encountered works by Goya and other artists that would have a long-term impact on his practice. As an art student at State University College in Buffalo, he was introduced to Eisenstein’s films and theories of montage.

    While working in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, Longo was a leading protagonist of the “Pictures Generation,” young artists making work inspired by, drawn from, and questioning the authenticity of ubiquitous images from newspapers, advertisements, film, and television. Working across drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, performance, and film, he critiqued capitalism, the culture wars, and the media.

    Longo lived and worked in Paris in the early 1990s, before returning to the United States to direct the Hollywood film Johnny Mnemonic (1995). At the turn of the millennium, events such as 9/11 and the Iraq War, which began in 2003, profoundly affected his work. Since 1999, he has focused exclusively on charcoal as a medium, addressing topics such as the Occupy movement, climate change, religion, and political protest. Longo lives and works in New York.
  • May 29, 1939 Rowlandson etching proofs for Rudolph Ackermann’s “Microcosm of London,” a work in three volumes published in 1810, will be shown for the first time in this country in an exhibition that will open at the Brooklyn Museum on Monday, May 29th. The work is from the W. G. Russell Allen Collection in Boston and is an exhibition of the Museum library.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 131.
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  • May 27, 1939 An exhibition of etching proofs by Thomas Rowlandson, never shown in America before, “Microcosm of London,” will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from May 29th to July 16th. There will be 25 uncolored proofs and 14 proofs handcolored by Rowlandson, in collaboration with Augustus Pugin who did the architectural part of the plates, which served as guides for the aquatinter. The collection has been lent to the Museum by W. G. Russell Allen, of Boston, Massachusetts.

    Proofs of the “Microcosm” are of the utmost rarity. With the exception of Mr. Allen’s the largest print collections in this country do not include any. This book, which is the most important document on early 19th century life in England, was issued in three volumes in 1810 by Rudolf Ackermann (1764-1834) an inventor and publisher. It contains 105 plates in color, each plate having been done jointly by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Augustus Pugin (1769-1032). Ackermann commissioned Pugin to do the architectural drawing and Rowlandson then supplied the figures. A copy of the finished 3 volume work, lent by the Weyhe Galleries, is also on display.

    When the preliminary design had been transferred to the plates and etched, a few proofs of each were pulled, with the design shown entirely in outline and in pure etching. The artists then colored the proofs by hand, and these proofs were given as guides to the craftsman who added the aquatint. The plates were inked with several neutral tints of grey, brown and ochre, and printed, probably in one printing only. The remaining colors were then added by hand by special workmen.

    Aside from their rarity, the untinted proofs are interesting as conveying the artists’ draftsmanship better than those showing the color, as the aquatint and handcoloring of the edition concealed much of the delicacy of the original work.

    The following quotation from the preface to the “Microcosm” explains why the work was divided between the two artists.

    “The great objection that men fond of the fine arts have hitherto made to engravings on architectural subjects has been that the building and figures have almost invariably been designed by the same artists. In consequence of this, the figures have been generally neglected, or are of a very inferior cast, and totally unconnected with the other part of the print...The architectural part of the subjects that are contained in this work will be delineated with the utmost precis1~on and care, by Mr. Pugin, whose uncommon accuracy and elegant taste have been displayed in his former productions. With respect to the figures, they are from the pencil of Mr. Rowlandson, with whose professional talents the public are already so well acquainted, that it is not necessary to expatiate on them here.”

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 141-2.
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  • May 29, 1939 An addition to the exhibition of etcher’s proofs by Thomas Rowlandson at the Brooklyn Museum is announced by Carl O. Schniewind, Curator of Prints and Drawings. This is a rare and important copy of the “Microcosm of London” lent the Museum for the occasion by the Alden Galleries, Kansas City, Mo. With the addition of the three volumes from the Alden Galleries the Museum is enabled to present the first complete record of the “Microcosm” probably ever shown in America or Europe.

    This copy of the “Microcosm” belonged to Augustus Pugin, who did the architectural part of the plates shown in the body of the exhibition, with Rowlandson putting in the figures. The three bound volumes contain 121 pencil and some brush drawings and watercolours, 104 aquatint proofs in black and white, 107 proofs of the finished plates printed in color, and the text of the first edition.

    The drawings frequently have notes and suggestions written on them by Rowlandson and Pugin, giving an Interesting insight into the collaboration of the two artists.

    The finished plates may be studied through the following stages: 1. A “first impression” sketch in pen and ink, sometimes with a brush wash of the architectural setting by Pugin. 2. A very accurate pencil drawing of the architecture by Pugin, with the figures added in delicate outline in pencil by Rowlandson, and with the composition frequently surrounded by Rowlandson’s meticulously detailed sketches of the figure and studies of their costumes and gestures. 3. A few watercolors of the finished composition. 4. The etcher’s proofs, of which there are none in Pugin’s copy, these being the plates on exhibition from The W. G. Russell Allen Collection. 5. Trial proofs of each plate, with a delicate aquatint imitating a wash coloring printed in a simple grey tone. 6. The finished plates, printed in color and touched up by hand.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 149.
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  • May 29, 1939 Now that the rush of openings of large exhibitions in connection with the World’s Fair seems to be over, we are resubmitting the release on the exhibition of Rowlandson’s Etching Proofs which we sent you before the exhibition opened but which seems to have been crowded out of your columns. We are sending you this material again in the hope that you will have some space for it now.

    Sincerely yours

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 165.
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  • May 29, 1939 The exhibition of Rowlandson’s Etching Proofs for Ackermann’s “Microcosm of London,” view at the Brooklyn Museum, which was to close at the end of July has been continued through October 1st.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939 - 1941. 07-09/1939, 177.
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  • May 29, 1939 The exhibition described in the enclosed release is available for review on Monday, May 29th, when photographs and list of the exhibited items will be available at the Sales Desk for the Press. The exhibition will continue through July 16th. Photographs taken at special request can be delivered in 36 hours or less.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 140.
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  • May 29, 1939 Print Gallery Entrance West Wall on Left
    St. Luke’s Hospital
    East India Company, the sale room
    Leadenhall Market
    Session House, Clerkenwell
    Vauxhall -Garden
    Magdalen Chapel, Magdalen House
    Bow Street Office
    Board Room of the Admiralty
    The Hall and Staircase, British Museum
    Billingsgate Market
    The Roman Catholic Chapel
    Fire in London
    St. Paul’s Cathedral
    Water Engine, Coldbath Fields Prison
    The Mint
    Old Bailey
    Temple Church
    Westminster Abbey
    The Hall, Blue Coat School
    St. Margarets, Westminster
    New Stock Exchange
    Coal Exchange
    Middlesex Hospital
    The Royal Cockpit, Bird Cage Walk
    The Asylum, or House of Refuge for Friendless and Homeless Girls
    Drawing from Life at the Royal Academy
    A View of Astley’s Amphitheatre
    Convent Garden Theatre
    The Pillory, Charing Cross
    Library of the Royal Institution
    Westminster Hall
    The Long Room, Custom House
    Pass Room, Bridewell
    Exhibition Room, Somerset House
    Common Council Chamber, Guildhall
    Bartholomew Fair, Smithfield
    The Great Hall, Carlton House
    Fleet Prison
    Exhibition of the Society of Painters in Watercolours

    Water Engine, Coldbath Fields prison
    New Stock Exchange
    Common Council Chamber, Guildhall
    Lent by Weyhe Galleries

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939. 04-07/1939, 143-4.
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