Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Sees New Galleries, Study Facilities, and State-of-the-art Conservation Lab in Perelman Building
The Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs now occupies extensive new quarters that comprehensively integrate a spacious, light-filled study room, staff offices and workrooms, a fully equipped paper conservation laboratory, and state of the art storage facilities for prints and drawings, as well as cool and cold storage rooms for photographs. Just off the entrance lobby of the newly restored and expanded Perelman Building is an introductory study gallery designed for the rotation of prints, drawings, and photographs close to the entrance to the department, and the Julien Levy Gallery for photographs is located in the nearby gallery wing. All of these improvements exert a major impact on the department, which is responsible for some 160,000 works of art on paper, representing more than half of the Museum’s overall collection of 225,000 objects.
In addition to increased space for exhibition, study, storage, and conservation, a new visibility and accessibility is the most obvious improvement to the department’s quarters, formerly located on a remote mezzanine in the classic, hilltop building across the street. In the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, the study gallery and the Abigail Rebecca Cohen Study Room enable the department’s collections to be easily accessible by appointment to staff or visitors. For the first time in over twenty years, the department’s collection is being united. Compact storage units make works of art easily retrievable for visitors and also provide much-needed room for future growth. The study room, which is twice as large as its previous space in the hilltop building, allows more works of art on paper—particularly large, contemporary works—to be displayed for study by classes, scholars, and interested visitors.
With polished maple floors, high ceilings, and flexible wall partitions, the 1550 square foot Julien Levy Gallery—which is one of a suite of three galleries on the first floor of the new addition—enables the department to undertake two to three photography exhibitions each year, drawing from the highlights of the impressive photography collection, which has grown to include more than 29,000 images.
The completed renovation and expansion of the Perelman Building allows the Museum to address constraints that have long restricted the department’s activities. “The Perelman Building is significantly changing the way we work by bringing our many related functions together,” said Innis Howe Shoemaker, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. “It dramatically improves our visibility to the public and allows us to provide the best care for our vast collection. And while we retain our important gallery presence across the street, we’re delighted that the Perelman Building allows us to increase our overall gallery space, especially for photography.”
Paper Conservation Laboratory and Workrooms
The fully equipped conservation laboratory, dedicated to the examination and treatment of works of art on paper, is almost five times the size of the former laboratory and able to accommodate large contemporary pieces. The flexible design allows conservators to safely separate “wet” from “dry” treatments. A small technical room provides facilities for conservators to use a polarized light microscope to analyze fibers in artists’ papers, beta radiography to document watermarks in the papers, and ultra-violet light to reveal identifying characteristics of component materials in a work of art.
On the floor below the laboratory are workrooms for cataloguing, record keeping, and data entry, as well as a spacious preparation room (more than double the size of the previous space), where works of art are matted and framed for display in the galleries.
About the Collection of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
The Museum’s collection of prints is among the largest in the United States and includes more than 100,000 European, Latin and North American, and Japanese prints. It is encyclopedic in scope, encompassing a full range of print techniques. The collection is best known for its unusually comprehensive holdings of more than 15,000 American prints created during the blossoming of printmaking between the two world wars, with exceptional depth in work by Rockwell Kent, Benton Spruance, Howard Cook, and Wanda Gág. The Museum also holds Master Sets of prints by John Marin, John Sloan, and Edward Hopper, demonstrating the successive changes these artists made on their etching plates. An important group of prints by Mexican modernists such as Rufino Tamayo, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros document the vital interaction between the New York art world and Mexico in the 1920s and ‘30s.
The encyclopedic collection of old master prints includes some 43,000 European prints originally given to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which the Museum acquired by exchange and purchase in 1985. Now known as the Muriel and Philip Berman Gift, the collection includes mannerist prints with extensive holdings of the engravings of Hendrik Goltzius and Giorgio Ghisi, Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts, and rare etchings by Parmigianino and Jacques Bellange; German Romantic prints comprise the foremost holding of this material in the United States.
The Ars Medica Collection, comprising over 2,500 prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books, offers a remarkable view of the interrelationships between the worlds of medicine, pharmacy, public health and the visual arts. Originating from a series of grants from the Philadelphia pharmaceutical firm Smith, Kline and French (now Glaxo SmithKline), the Ars Medica Collection also includes the William H. Helfand Collection of posters, prints, and ephemera.
The Museum’s unrivalled collections of works in various mediums by Thomas Eakins, Auguste Rodin, and Marcel Duchamp include many drawings by each of these masters, while great modern drawings, watercolors, and collages by artists such as Picasso, Braque, Miró, Kandinsky, and Klee, come from the modern art collections of Louise and Walter Arensberg and A.E. Gallatin. The old master drawings collection has special emphasis upon the work of 17th and 18th-century Italian masters such as G.B. Castiglione, Pompeo Batoni, Giuseppe Cades, and Felice Giani; stellar examples of 19th century French drawings, pastels, and watercolors by Cézanne, Seurat, and Degas are joined by American and British drawings by Winslow Homer, Sir Edward Burne Jones, and William Blake. Recent acquisitions of work by self-taught artists such as William Traylor, Martín Ramirez, and Joseph Yoakum have created a new area of strength in the drawings collection.