Skip to main content

The Plot Thickens: Narrative in British Printmaking, 1700–1900

March 16–June 23, 2002

This exhibition, featuring some fifty prints drawn from the museum’s collection, explores Britain’s fascination with narrative art during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Using contemporary novels, poems, Shakespearean plays, and even history books for inspiration, British artists became visual storytellers. They encouraged viewers to “read“ their images by making every object and gesture within the picture an important element of the unfolding tale. Artists even abandoned traditional ways of making portraits and landscapes to meet the high demand for such plot-driven imagery.

Some of the engravings on display include those after Sir Joshua Reynolds’s celebrated portrait of The Montgomery Sisters Decorating a Term of Hymen and David Wilkie’s The Rabbit on the Wall. Also on exhibit is William Hogarth’s innovative engraved tale The Harlots Progress as well as original prints by William Blake and Samuel Palmer.

Main Building


Andrea Fredericksen, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Check out other exhibitions

View full calendar