The exhibition ‘Revelations’ celebrates the historic improvements of the printing press and pictures, which untethered photographs from costly manuscripts and work, presenting new methods to navigate the world and our place in it. This, the first in our two half sequence focuses on the printing press and Albrecht Dürer’s (1471–1528) illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence.

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Few machines have altered historical past like the fifteenth-century Gutenberg printing press or the digital camera in the nineteenth century. Steam engines, electrical energy and anaesthesia might compete for primacy in a story of technological advances, however not like industrial or medical improvements, the impression of the printed phrase and picture was felt on a extra cerebral degree, invariably altering the means we expect, learn and envision the world. ‘Revelations’ examines the social and aesthetic affect of those two turning factors in mechanical replica and the bigger context that bore them. Just like our personal occasions, these had been precarious, fractious eras, wherein new applied sciences promised to shake up the established order.

The exhibition’s title performs on two understandings of ‘revelation’. First of all, printmaking and pictures radically upended picture consumption by offering options to portray. With the creation of each media, photos had been untethered from costly, one-off artworks and have become transportable duplicates that might be replicated advert infinitum. As objects, prints and images had been cheaper to make and distribute, and will attain an awesome many individuals. But a extra literal kind of revelation is clear in these machine-made artistic endeavors: simply as a woodblock print is constructed from a carved design in reverse, an analogue {photograph} is developed from its detrimental; in each processes, the ensuing picture is peeled again from its mirrored reverse. Indeed, there’s something magical, or alchemical, in each unveilings.

Albrecht Dürer, Germany 1471–1528 / The Virgin Appearing to St John (from ‘The Apocalypse’ sequence) 1511, Latin version, 1511 / Woodcut on laid paper / 38.3 x 27.4cm / Purchased 2013 with funds from the Airey Family by means of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

The story of ‘Revelations’ begins in the mid-fifteenth century. In 1450, German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg (ca.1397–1468) created a machine that would print an infinite mixture of letters. Although moveable-type printing had been developed in East Asia at the very least two centuries earlier, this was the first time the expertise appeared in Europe. Looking at present mechanisms like the wine press, Gutenberg imagined an equipment that would precisely and effectively switch the written phrase to paper, bypassing the want for scribes (typically monks) to put in writing out complete volumes by hand. Before the press, books had been rarefied and expensive objects — some as useful as a home. By decreasing the value of books, Gutenberg’s press gave a wider swath of society an unprecedented entry to data, typically in the vernacular language and aided by illustrations for individuals who had been illiterate.

Only a couple of a long time after Gutenberg’s invention, the German metropolis of Nuremberg turned a centre of print publishing and hosted a technology of proficient printmakers, most notable amongst them being Albrecht Dürer.

In the 1490s, Dürer created three volumes of woodblock prints: The Passion, The Life of the Virgin and, most famously, an illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence. In 2016, the Gallery was happy to finish its acquisition of all 16 ‘Apocalypse’ prints.

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DELVE DEEPER: ALBRECHT DÜRER

The exhibition ‘Revelations’ celebrates the historic improvements of the printing press and pictures, which untethered photographs from costly manuscripts and work, presenting new methods to navigate the world and our place in it. This, the first in our two half sequence focuses on the printing press and Albrecht Dürer’s (1471–1528) illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence.
Albrecht Dürer, Germany 1471–1528 / The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse (from ‘The Apocalypse’ sequence) c.1497–98, Latin version, 1511 / Woodcut on laid paper / Purchased 2013 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation by means of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
The exhibition ‘Revelations’ celebrates the historic improvements of the printing press and pictures, which untethered photographs from costly manuscripts and work, presenting new methods to navigate the world and our place in it. This, the first in our two half sequence focuses on the printing press and Albrecht Dürer’s (1471–1528) illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence.
Albrecht Dürer, Germany 1471-1528 / The Opening of the Seventh Seal c.1496-97, from ‘The Apocalypse’, Latin version, 1511 / Woodcut on paper / Purchased 2013 with funds from the Airey Family by means of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
The exhibition ‘Revelations’ celebrates the historic improvements of the printing press and pictures, which untethered photographs from costly manuscripts and work, presenting new methods to navigate the world and our place in it. This, the first in our two half sequence focuses on the printing press and Albrecht Dürer’s (1471–1528) illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence.
Albrecht Dürer, Germany 1471–1528 / St Michael Fighting the Dragon (from ‘The Apocalypse’ sequence) c.1497-98, Latin version, 1511 / Woodcut on paper / 39.3 x 28cm (comp.) / Purchased 2016 with funds from the Airey Family by means of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Dürer’s imaginative and prescient of the Last Judgment is much from a passive translation of scripture. Rather, his illustrations slim in on one vivid element of John’s revelations or synthesise many verses into stark photographs of divine destruction. The quantity was first printed in 1498 and later reissued in 1511 with an extra title web page. The artist was a savvy promoter of his work and in addition offered single-sheet impressions of the prints, enabling him to reside off royalties from the sequence all through his life.

While Dürer was the foremost artist to come up from Nuremberg, he was not alone in his creative ambition. Having watched his godfather, Anton Koberger, change into a outstanding writer, and later coaching underneath the printmaker Michael Wolgemut (who illustrated the second main printed e book, the Nuremberg Chronicle), Dürer belonged to a tight-knit literary and creative milieu.

As they unfold new concepts throughout central Europe, these early printers sowed the seeds for the creative Renaissance and non secular schisms in the century to comply with. In the later years of Dürer’s life, Nuremberg proved an vital location for Martin Luther’s revolt towards the Catholic papacy from 1517 onwards. In reality, Lucas Cranach’s illustrations of The Book of Revelation for Luther’s widespread German Bible (printed in 1522) had been intently based mostly on Dürer’s ‘Apocalypse’ sequence, pointing to the artist’s lasting impression on Protestantism.

Printing gave strange folks new insights, and their tales stay preserved in treasured private collections, at the moment, it’s close to unattainable to think about life with out our favorite paperbacks, or treasured illustrated books.

Sophie Rose is Assistant Curator, International Art, QAGOMA

‘Revelations’ is in Galleries 7 and 9 of the Philip Bacon Galleries, Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), till 19 September 2021. Special due to Gael Newton AM, Morris Low, the Airey Family, Margaret Mittelheuser AM and Cathryn Mittelheuser AM, the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust and the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation for his or her donations by means of the QAGOMA Foundation, which have considerably contributed to the works on this exhibition.

The exhibition ‘Revelations’ celebrates the historic improvements of the printing press and pictures, which untethered photographs from costly manuscripts and work, presenting new methods to navigate the world and our place in it. This, the first in our two half sequence focuses on the printing press and Albrecht Dürer’s (1471–1528) illustrated quantity of The Book of the Revelation of St John, extra generally generally known as his ‘Apocalypse’ sequence.
Installation view of ‘Revelations’ / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

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Feature picture element: Albrecht Dürer St Michael Fighting the Dragon (from ‘The Apocalypse’ sequence) c.1497-98, Latin version, 1511

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