Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Presents A Celebration of Print: 500 Years of Graphic Art from the Frank Raysor Collection

An exhibition honoring the promised gifts of collector, connoisseur and scholar Frank Raysor at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open and will be on view until May 22, 2011.

Throughout the past 35 years, Raysor, who grew up in Richmond, has amassed a collection of approximately 10,000 prints that covers the history of print-making and includes special deep holdings of artists such as Charles Meryon, Félix Bracquemond, Seymour Haden and Wenceslaus Hollar. This gift will increase VMFA’s total number of objects by one third.

As a representation of Raysor’s collection, more than 100 works spanning five centuries and a variety of themes and cultures will be on display. Works by professional printmakers, as well as painters and sculptors are part of the exhibition.

“It’s a major opportunity for the museum to acquire a collection of this range and depth, particularly with the holdings of certain artists,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said. In recognition of this extraordinary gift, VMFA will name Raysor “Collector of the Year” at the Collector’s Cirlce gala in April.

About the Art
Three stupendous Baroque portraits by Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt van Rijn and Robert Nanteuil open the exhibition. Although the three were contemporaries, their portraits differ in their degree of finish and formality. Also in this collection is one of the first “portraits” of a domestic animal – Visscher’s The Large Cat, memorable for its veracity. Bracquemond’s Portrait of Edmond de Goncourt must be considered, for its originality and directness combined with optical naturalism and surpassing detail, one of the greatest tours de force of the printmaker’s art. Far less formal are the portraits of Tissot and Cassatt, which offer new formats and insights into the genre. In the misty outlines of his subject’s beard and face, Carrière introduces haunting symbolist effects in Portrait of Puvis de Chavannes, while Beaux creates a beautiful image faithfully reproduced in wood engraving. Finally, Orlik and Zorn offer portraits of musicians that also recall the examples of the three great portraitists shown in the first gallery of the exhibition.

Landscapes and Cityscapes:
City and country views predominate in this exhibition and are indeed subjects most favored by independent printmakers. One of the earliest landscapes in the show, Claude Lorrain’s The Cowherd, has been called “the most beautiful print ever made.” The pastoral tradition Claude inaugurated influenced centuries of artists, and that influence is evident when comparing a similar subject made two centuries later by Charles-François Daubigny. While landscape prints can oscillate between real and imagined views, John Constable anchors his vision firmly in his seen reality. Cityscapes offered artists a chance to demonstrate their virtuosity. Compare the panoramas of Prague and San Francisco by Wenceslaus Hollar and Charles Meryon, respectively, with the vertical panorama of Manhattan skyscrapers by Armin Landeck. The contemporary artist Richard Haas concludes the exhibition with his 2007 work entitled 57th Street Looking East.

Actors and the Theater:
Artists have always been fascinated by the world of the theater, often using this subject as a vehicle for critiquing contemporary society. The baroque printmakers Jacques Callot and Abraham Bosse show actors in very different kinds of theater, respectively informal and formal. Antoine Watteau, in a work engraved by Pierre-Quentin Chedel, goes behind the scenes, using actors from the commedia dell’arte tradition to explore the world of sentiment. Offering a satirical view of classes coming together, William Hogarth’s bustling Southwark Fair critiques 18th-century urban England and its morbid interest in all kinds of spectacles. Fantin-Latour’s escapist Pastorale shows a highly artificial vision influenced by Wagner’s operas. Instead of the stage, Walter Sickert offers a view of a captivated audience in a music hall, a source for popular entertainment in Edwardian England. Finally, in Piccadilly Circus, 1915, Muirhead Bone depicts wartime anxiety in the center of the London entertainment industry as theater lights serve as searchlights looking for enemy aircraft.

About Frank Raysor
Raysor grew up in Richmond and often visited VMFA at a young age in the mid-1950s. He left Richmond to attend Duke University and then Harvard Business School before embarking on his career in business, first with Davenport & Company in Richmond and then with Seagram in New York City, where he worked for 34 years. And, while Raysor is not an artist, the interest in images nurtured by VMFA inspired him to begin his own personal collection, with a strong concentration on prints.

About the Exhibition
• TITLE: A Celebration of Print: 500 Years of Graphic Art from the Frank Raysor Collection
• LOCATION: VMFA, Mellon Focus Gallery
• DATES: Jan. 29 – May 22, 2011
• VMFA CURATOR: Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
With a collection of art that spans the globe and more than 5,000 years, plus a wide array of special exhibitions, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is recognized as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. The museum’s permanent collection encompasses more than 22,000 works of art, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside Russia and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is home to acclaimed collections of English Silver and Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British Sporting and Contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its 75-year history. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus fun after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. General admission is always free. For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220-4007 804.340.1400

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