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The Circulating Lifeblood of Ideas; Leo Steinberg’s Library of Prints

Thursday, October 19, 2023

12:00PM ET

Holly Borham, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Art at the Blanton Museum of Art, explores aspects of Steinberg’s print collection and how it informed the scholarship of one of the twentieth century’s most influential art historians.

Beginning in the early 1960s, with only the meager budget of a part-time art history professor, Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) amassed a collection of more than 3,500 prints that spans the medium’s five-hundred-year history in the West. Akin to books on a shelf, Steinberg’s prints
formed a visual library that shaped his scholarship in fundamental ways. His collection, incorporating the work of artists both famous and obscure, illuminates his claim that in the era
before photography, prints functioned as the “circulating lifeblood of ideas.” Through close observation of his own prints, Steinberg developed some of his most innovative arguments about the instructive richness of the copy and the expressive potential of body language, while also challenging reigning orthodoxies about modernism.

Holly Borham (Ph.D. Princeton University) is Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Blanton Museum of Art, where she oversees the Julia Matthews Wilkinson Center for Prints and Drawings.

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