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A Master Collection: Noted scholar's gift of 3,200 prints enriches the Blanton Museum

Leo Steinberg
Portrait of Leo Steinberg
Noted art historian and critic Leo Steinberg has given his collection of more than 3,200 prints to the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin, and Jessie Otto Hite, director of the museum, have announced.

This encyclopedic collection is among the finest in private hands in the United States and is recognized by scholars for its extraordinary quality, range and depth, and for its representation of rare and unique works. The gift includes prints from the 15th through the 20th centuries, including masterpieces by Marcantonio Raimondi, Albrecht Dürer, Parmigianino, Cornelis Cort, Hendrick Goltzius, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt, and Francesco Piranesi, as well as William Blake, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, George Grosz, Jasper Johns and many others. At the Blanton Museum, the Leo Steinberg Collection will become a dynamic resource for students, faculty and scholars.

The Blanton Museum is one of the foremost university art museums in the United States, and its collection is the most significant in central Texas. This gift enhances the Blanton’s standing as it develops a new facility scheduled to open in 2005. The new building will provide greatly expanded galleries and teaching spaces for the Blanton’s rapidly growing permanent collection.

Developed by Steinberg, a noted scholar and critic and imaginative explorer of prints, the collection was shaped over four decades by Steinberg’s knowledge and vision. Steinberg has been called “the ideal of what a print collector should be” by Timothy Riggs, scholar of Northern Renaissance prints and the assistant director of the Ackland Art Museum. The collection’s areas of great depth correspond with Steinberg’s diverse historical and critical interests. Ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary art, the collection has long been used by Steinberg as a teaching resource. It reflects his extraordinary understanding of prints as an art form and as “the circulating lifeblood of ideas” for generations of artists.

Le soleil levant by Claude Lorrain
Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain
French, 1600 - 1682
Le soleil levant, 1634
Etching, Robert-Dumesnil 15
“Professor Steinberg has dedicated his life to research and education, and has developed one of the richest and most original collections in the field of art history,” Faulkner said. “The University of Texas at Austin shares Professor Steinberg’s passion for building resources that foster scholarship, teaching opportunities and enjoyment across the wide range of disciplines explored in our classrooms, labs and libraries. We celebrate Dr. Steinberg’s kinship in this mission and the landmark print collection he has given to our students and the Blanton’s visitors from around the world.”

The Leo Steinberg Collection resonates within the Blanton’s encyclopedic collection, which now comprises more than 17,000 works of art, and it provides new opportunities for scholars and visitors to explore artists and periods across media. The addition of Steinberg’s print collection reinforces the Blanton’s international stature as a leading museum for the collection, exhibition and study of Old Master paintings, drawings and prints. The gift builds upon the museum’s celebrated Suida-Manning Collection of later Renaissance and Baroque paintings and drawings, which came to the museum as a partial gift in 1998, and strengthens the Blanton’s significant holdings of prints and drawings, which include works ranging from the 15th through the 20th centuries. The Leo Steinberg Collection also complements the Blanton’s noteworthy holdings of 19th- and 20th-century works from the United States and Latin America.

“This gift marks a historic moment for the Blanton Museum of Art and the city of Austin,” Hite said. “This outstanding collection of prints, developed by one of this country’s most passionate and brilliant art historians, will create unparalleled opportunities for studying the later Renaissance and Baroque at the Blanton. The gift of these works brings a new level of distinction to the Blanton as both a center for research, and as a cultural institution serving the people of Austin and visitors from around the world. We are very grateful to Professor Steinberg.”

Jupiter and Antiope by Leon Davent
Léon Davent
French, active 1540 - 1556
Jupiter and Antiope, after Primaticcio
Engraving, Herbet 10, Zerner 49
Steinberg began collecting Italian Renaissance and Mannerist prints, along with reproductive prints of all periods, in the early 1960s – 20 to 30 years before academic and collecting circles were devoting attention to these fields. Continuing to acquire Old Master prints, and adding modern and contemporary works throughout the years, Steinberg formed a comprehensive collection of works representative of his expertise and eye for quality. The collection reflects his distinguished career as a groundbreaking scholar, inspiring teacher, art lover and connoisseur. The correspondences between his own collection and the Blanton’s encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings were important in Steinberg’s decision to make the gift to the museum. In doing so, he has insured that his print collection will provide a range of opportunities for individuals within the university community and beyond to explore the evolution of printmaking from the perspective of a great scholar.

“Having spent most of my life studying art and sharing my enthusiasm with others,” Steinberg said, “it was important to me that this collection live within a museum where it will continue to intrigue and inspire students and be recognized as a resource for teaching, research and sheer pleasure. The Blanton, with its outstanding curator and its far-reaching collections of prints and drawings and Old Master works, provides a perfect fit. I hope this gift will encourage other collectors to further enrich the Blanton’s collections.”

Leo Steinberg's Print Collection at the Blanton Museum

Steinberg began his relationship with the Blanton Museum of Art in the spring of 1995 when he came to the museum as a distinguished visiting lecturer. While in Austin, he spent time exploring the Blanton's collection of prints with curator Jonathan Bober and was impressed by the range and quality of the collection. Steinberg recognized a kinship between his own collection of prints and Bober's emphasis on quality, depth and breadth, and significance for teaching in his development of the Blanton's collection. Since that time, the museum has purchased 136 works from Steinberg, and Steinberg has given the museum another 105 works. The donation of the Steinberg Collection builds upon this relationship and history of giving to the Blanton. Under the terms of the current gift, Steinberg has arranged for the university to acquire his entire collection through a charitable remainder trust.

Steinberg’s collection of more than 3,200 prints corresponds with the Blanton’s existing holdings of prints and drawings as well as with the Renaissance and Baroque works in the Suida-Manning Collection. The Blanton’s print collection is the largest and most historically balanced of its kind in the southern and southwestern United States, with particular strengths in 16th-century Italian engraving, 17th-century Italian etching, 18th-century French prints, and portrait and reproductive prints of all periods. Other areas of strength are modern American prints, especially Regionalism and Texas Regionalism, and specific areas of modern European printmaking including French Romantic lithography, the Etching Revival, modern wood engraving, and late Constructivist and Concrete art. The Blanton also houses a strong group of contemporary Latin American drawings and modern Mexican prints.

In 1998, the Blanton acquired the Suida-Manning Collection—widely recognized as one of the greatest, privately assembled collections of Renaissance and Baroque art in the world, with masterpieces by Correggio, Luca Cambiaso, Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens, Guercino, Claude Lorrain, Giambattista Tiepolo, François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, among many others. Spanning the 14th through the 18th centuries, the paintings and drawings of the Suida-Manning Collection will be immeasurably augmented and contextualized by the Steinberg Collection’s particular strengths in Old Master prints.

Highlights from the Leo Steinberg Collection will be on view at the Blanton Museum in two parts. The first exhibition from the collection will open in January 2003 and the second in September 2003.

Nicole Chism Griffin

Portrait of Leo Steinberg: Pamela Blackwell

Images courtesy Blanton Museum of Art

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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