May 16 | July 29, 2012
In 1916, the influential Parisian print dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard (1865–1939) commissioned Georges Rouault (1871–1958) to create a large portfolio of prints based on drawings the artist had done about the ravages of war, human folly, and salvation through Jesus Christ. Inspired by Psalm 51’s opening line, “Have mercy on me, O Lord,” the resulting portfolio, Miserere, is considered Rouault’s masterpiece, as well as a landmark of 20th-century printmaking. Rouault worked feverishly on the 58 metal printing plates, employing a variety of intaglio methods, including etching and aquatint. Working on the plates during two campaigns—1916–1917 and 1920–1927—Rouault made layer upon layer of different marks, along with dense tones and textures, to achieve the incredibly rich prints.
The content of the images, as well as Rouault’s laborious, meditative process, have led many scholars to characterize Miserere as the artist’s prayer for the salvation of humanity in a tumultuous time scarred by two world wars. When the portfolio was finally published in 1948, it was shown in its entirety in European and American museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Miserere was instantly recognized and celebrated as one of the greatest achievements in 20th-century graphic arts. For the first time in over 20 years, the entire suite is on view at the McNay.
This exhibition was organized by the McNay.
Funding is generously provided by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Exhibition Endowment, and the Arthur and Jane Stieren Fund for Exhibitions.
Image: © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris