Both in the East and in the West, religious images and texts were made readily accessible and understandable to wider audiences through the medium of print. In East Asia, religious instruction grew hand in hand with printing from the eighth century on; illustrated Buddhist sutra texts still survive from these early days. In Europe, it was not until the 1450s that the first book was printed in metal movable type, but notably that book was the Gutenberg Bible. This exhibition, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the departments of Prints and Drawings and Asian Art, brings together works from both collections to explore the rich printed traditions that were fostered by devotional practices.
Beyond the Gutenberg Bible, printing revolutionized Western religious customs, with broadsides and pamphlets flourishing by the thousands. Even illiterate audiences understood didactic images, and woodblocks were printed cheaply alongside reusable metal type. Collectible prints of haloed patron saints could be acquired at pilgrimage sites and devoutly touched to the saint’s remains, or assembled into wall decorations structured like altarpieces. Prints even allowed the armchair reader a sense of being physically present in far-off places mentioned in the Bible as exemplified in the exhibition by a panoramic woodcut of Jerusalem that served as the culminating illustration of a 1486 book about pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In Japan, prints were used in a parallel fashion to spread Buddhist teachings. Among the works featured in the exhibition are one of a million small eighth-century wood pagodas containing a printed prayer for peace, a set of large-scale woodblock-printed and hand-painted images of deities for use in temple ceremonies, and examples of charms acquired by pilgrims at various temple sites. The latter exemplifies how Christianity and Buddhism brought about similar social practices, despite their many differences in thought.
Fittingly this coming-together of Eastern and Western prints is presented in the Clarence Buckingham Gallery for Japanese Prints. One of the museum’s earliest and most important donors, Buckingham collected both Old Master and Japanese prints, and examples of each are on display in this unique presentation.
1 hour 57 sec ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1983: The museum held an exhibition for the collection of Jalane and Richard Davidson, Chicago collectors of contemporary American realist drawings. Acknowledged at the time for collecting against prevailing art world trends, they amassed a comprehensive collection of work spanning the careers of both well-known artists—like Jack Beal, pictured here with Jalane herself and a portrait he made of her—and lesser-known Midwestern artists. The entire Davidson collection was bequeathed to the museum and saw another exhibition devoted to it in 1999.
5 hours 29 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Who's ready to experience A Lot of Sorrow? The National aren't playing Lollapalooza this year, but festival–goers can still see the band perform their ballad “Sorrow” on repeat for six hours, in an intensely durational film by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.
Now on view in the Modern Wing
21 hours 7 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Support the many fine programs of the museum and discover an interesting array of home décor, jewelry, art reproductions, and more in the Museum Shop’s Gift Catalog.
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