Print room

Print room

A print room is either a room or industrial building where printing takes place, or a room in an art gallery, museum or archive, where a collection of old master and modern prints, usually together with drawings and watercolours, are held and viewed. The latter meaning is the subject of this article. A further meaning is a room decorated by pasting prints onto the wall in a quasi-collage style to form a sort of wallpaper, an 18th century fashion, of which several examples survive. [For example at The Vyne. One of the largest, though untypically the prints are cut out around shapes, that are pasted well spaced apart, is at Castletown in Ireland.]

What a print room looks like

Since for conservation reasons works on paper cannot be permanently displayed (light, temperature and humidity conditions leave them vulnerable to damage, limiting the hang to no more than 6 months), they are kept in inert, acid-free boxes, albums or portfolios behind closed doors. Where possible, they are mounted on archivally safe supports. Storage may be in the same room as the viewing is done (the 'Reading-' or 'Study Room'), but as the largest collections have well over a million items stores are often located 'behind the scenes', along with the curators' offices. Typically, the visitor sits at a desk equipped with a stand or easel, and the material requested is brought out for them by the curators, who are happy to offer further information about works and artists.

How to visit

Most national collections can be seen by the public more easily than is often realised. Usually, visitors of all sorts, whether researchers or not, are entitled to view works on paper not on display in the galleries, which will form the great majority of an institution's collection, thereby making print rooms an essential resource for enabling our understanding and appreciation of works on paper - in particular, how artists conceive of finished paintings through preparatory studies, and how printmaking traditions and techniques have evolved over the centuries. On a national level, print rooms tend to differ, each having their own specialism, however collections often overlap in content.

There are links to lists of print rooms at the end of the article; most lead to the gallery's or museum's web-pages, which explain visiting arrangements. In many cases appointments need to be made in advance, and proof of identity should usually be provided. While it is helpful to outline what you would like to see (including artists' names and catalogue numbers, which may be available online or in books), visitors are also usually welcome to discuss their needs more casually by phoning or emailing in advance of their appointment. It is important to remember that not all material will be available to view, depending on current loans and exhibitions commitments and the condition of works. Some especially fragile or valuable items may not normally be available for viewing.

Often not in the expected museum

Because of the need to keep them stored, prints and drawings are sometimes associated with library collections rather than collections of paintings. For example in Paris the main print (but not drawings) collection is in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, not the Louvre. In New York and Washington, both the main art museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Gallery of Art Washington) and the libraries (New York Public Library and Library of Congress)all have important, though very different, collections. Sometimes, material from non-Western traditions - in particular, Asian material, including Japanese prints - may or may not be held in the same department, or the same institution.

In London, the National Gallery holds no works on paper; only paintings and sculptures of the European tradition. The main collection of Western prints and drawings is held in the British Museum and includes fine examples by the Old Masters. Originally known as the national gallery of British art, Tate Britain holds British prints and drawings, which include the world's largest collection of watercolours, sketches and engravings by JMW Turner, historic works on paper from the late 18th and 19th centuries, and modern and contemporary British and International prints. The Victoria and Albert Museum's works on paper collection has a particularly broad remit, encompassing works of fine and applied art (including posters) as well as ephemera.

What is by general consent the world's greatest collection overall is that of the Albertina (Vienna), currently completely closed for rebuilding.


References and external links

* [ Delinavit et Sculpsit] — the major print rooms of the world.
* [ Print Alliance of America] — a long list of print rooms in the USA & Canada only. Numbers given refer to contemporary art prints only; most collections have other works as well.
* [ Bodkin Prints] — a virtual print-room. Links to well over 10,000 online images of prints.

Print Rooms open to the general public

* [] Print Collection at the New York Public Library
* [] - Morse Study Room Boston Museum of Fine Arts
* [] - Prints and Drawings Study Rooms, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.
* [] - British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings, London
* [] - Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms, London
* [] - Victoria & Albert Museum's Prints and Drawings Study Rooms, London
* [] - Prints and drawings rooms, Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
* [] - the Fitzwilliam's Graham Robertson study room, Cambridge.
* [] - Ashmolean print room, Oxford.
* [] - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery print room.
* [] - Prints and Drawings Study Room, National Museum Cardiff.
* [] - National Gallery of Scotland print room, Edinburgh.
* [] - Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) print room, Edinburgh.
* [] - Hunterian Art Gallery print room, University of Glasgow.
* [] - National Gallery of Ireland's Diageo Print Room, Dublin
* [] - Print Room, Leiden University Library, The Netherlands

Print rooms with restricted access

* [] - Albertina collection, Vienna.

* [] - Print Study Rooms, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
* [] - MoMA's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Print Room, NY.
* [] - Prints and Drawings Study Rooms, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
* [] - the Royal Collection print room, Windsor,Surrey.

ee Also

* [] - MoMA's animated guide to print techniques.
* [] - Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol.
* [] - International Fine Print Dealers Association.
* [] - London Original Print Fair, Royal Academy of Arts.
* [] - Frieze Art Fair, London.
* [] - Print Basel art fair.

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