Feature Articles

January 2014

UNC - Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC, Offers Works by Theodor de Bry

UNC - Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC, will present two new exhibits including: The New Found Land: Engravings by Theodor de Bry from the Collection of Michael N. Joyner, on view from Jan. 31 through Apr. 13, 2014, and America Seen: The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection of Social Realist Prints, on view from Jan. 31 through Apr. 13, 2014. Both exhibitions will be at the Ackland Art Museum.

In 1588, Thomas Harriot published A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, an engaging account of the area and inhabitants around the first British settlement in North America, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. In 1590, an illustrated edition appeared, including 28 engravings by the Flemish artist Theodor de Bry (1528-1598), working from watercolors made by John White, a member of the expedition. Published in four languages and widely distributed, this book and its images gave Europeans their first (and lasting) impressions of Native Americans and some of their customs.

This exhibition presents over 40 examples of these compelling engravings, some hand-colored and from various editions of the book. Also included are engraved portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh (sponsors of the expedition) and a self-portrait by de Bry, as well as early maps.

These prints are intended gifts to the Ackland from the collection of Michael N. Joyner, AB ’77. The exhibition will be enhanced by loans of related material from two rich repositories at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library (printed materials), and the North Carolina Archaeological Collections in the Research Laboratories of Archaeology (Native American artifacts, such as cooking pots, from cultures close in time, place, or lifeway to the indigenous groups encountered by the Roanoke settlers, thereby counterbalancing de Bry’s Eurocentric, outsider’s viewpoint).

The 1930s and adjacent decades were a golden age of American printmaking. Federally-funded arts programs, notably the Works Progress Administration (WPA), sponsored and supported the work of a large number of artists, including printmakers, and the Associated American Artists organization made a wide range of prints—by some of the country’s most distinguished artists—available to the general public at modest prices.

America Seen: The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection of Social Realist Prints presents a very recent generous gift to the Ackland of 38 prints from the era, covering the range of popular and evocative subject matter: scenes of rural life and hardship, urban entertainments, and cityscapes showcasing the magnificent diversity of New York City, especially its subway. To varying degrees these works of art are critical, documentary, and celebratory, but all are powerful visual statements about the America of the time, familiar subject matter in accessible medium. Interestingly, about a quarter of the artists in the exhibition were born outside the United States, offering the immigrant’s eye on America Seen.

For more info check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call 919/966-5736 or visit (http://www.ackland.org/index.htm).

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