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Mezzotints by John Sartain: Philadelphia Printmaker, 1808-1897

January 18–April 20, 1997

London-born and London-trained, John Sartain set up as a printmaker in Philadelphia in 1830. He made his reputation in the United States by reviving the use of mezzotint engraving, a technique long favored in England -- even after the advent of photography -- as the most effective means of reproducing paintings as prints. Mezzotint was especially prized for its ability to translate the various colors of a painting into a seamless blend of monochrome tones in a print: from deep, velvety black, through a range of pearly grays, to luminous white. Working closely with the leading artists of the day whose paintings he copied, Sartain himself achieved prominence in Philadelphia art circles, eventually serving as art director of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. As founder of an extended family of printmakers and artists, John Sartain established a legacy in Philadelphia that lives on in the collections of numerous local institutions, which now own many of the works of art produced by the Sartain family. To mark the centennial of the patriarch's death, the Philadelphia Museum of Art joins these institutions in celebrating the accomplishments of the Sartain family with this installation of mezzotints by John Sartain drawn entirely from the Museum's own collection. Other exhibitions are scheduled at the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, and at the Philadelphia Print Shop in Chestnut Hill.

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