The Ferris Collection of Prints
The Museum’s Graphic Arts Collection, the oldest print-collecting unit in the Smithsonian, focuses on the technical and social history of printmaking to document how prints are made and used. Smithsonian art museums collect works on paper selected for aesthetic reasons, but the National Museum of American History (formerly the Museum of History and Technology) takes a broad view of visual culture.
Our prints illustrate technical developments and cultural changes. They represent all kinds of graphic works that have influenced American society. The collection has always included examples from many periods and countries, fine-art prints as well as popular and commercial graphic art, together with the plates, blocks, and tools used to produce prints. In 1996 the Museum presented an exhibition on 150 years of Smithsonian print collecting, Building a National Collection.
One of the largest print collections ever received by the Smithsonian was donated by the Ferris family between 1927 and 1932. Stephen James Ferris (1835–1915), a Philadelphia painter and etcher, collected over 2,000 European and American prints, both reproductive and original, representing old master and contemporary printmakers. The collection incorporated a variety of artistic subjects, compositions, and styles. Ferris may well have mined it for inspiration for his own work, but he was also deeply interested in art for its own sake. He and his family and friends would have simply enjoyed studying the images.
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"The Ferris Collection of Prints - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- Abbé Jean-Claude-Richard de Saint-Non made this aquatint from a drawing by Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) of an altarpiece by Guercino in the church of San Gregorio in Bologna, Italy. While visiting Rome, Saint-Non invited Fragonard, then at the French Academy in Rome, to accompany him on a tour of northern Italy to visit sites of historic and artistic interest. Fragonard made more than 300 sketches, some of which Saint-Non used as a basis for prints that were issued in Paris between 1770 and 1774.
- Saint-Non, a wealthy amateur etcher assisted by Jean-Baptiste Delafosse, a professional printmaker, invented a successful aquatint process in 1765. In this process, the artist dusts rosin powder onto a copper plate, which is heated to adhere the rosin. The plate is then etched in acid to create a rough surface that captures the ink to provide tonal areas in the print.
- The painting by Guercino (1591–1666) shows Saint William dressed in armor putting on a monk’s habit before Saint Benedict of Aniane. Saint William, formerly the Duke of Aquitaine, had fought bravely against Moorish invaders in Spain and France, but in 806 he retired from the world to become a monk in the monastery he had founded.
- Currently not on view
- Date made
- original artist
- Fragonard, Jean-Honoré
- graphic artist
- Saint-Non, Jean Claude Richard de
- original artist
- Guercino, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center