Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna
15 March - 8 June 2014
The Sackler Wing, Burlington House
Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm
Please note: We will be closed on 4 June from 1pm and all day on 23 June.
£11 (without donation £10). Concessions available. Friends of the RA go free.
Friends of the RA go free
Discover the lost art of Chiaroscuro woodcuts - pioneering 16th-century prints based on the exquisite designs of the Renaissance masters.
Discover the beautiful art of Chiaroscuro woodcuts as we present works from two of the finest collections in the world. Conceived as independent works or based on the designs of the greatest Renaissance artists such as Parmigianino, Raphael and Titian, you will see how this pioneering 16th-century printing technique breathed new life into well-known biblical scenes and legends; from Perseus slaying the Medusa to Aeneas Fleeing Troy, and the Miraculous Draught of Fishes.
We have brought together 150 of the rarest and most exquisite examples of this forgotten art form. With a focus on the craftsmanship of its proponents in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, you will see how the chiaroscuro method was used to create the first colour prints that make dramatic use of light and dark.
Created by established artists for a wider public, they were collected and appreciated both as mementos of famous works in other media and in their own right for their sheer technical brilliance and visual power.
A spectacular selection
The Sunday Times
A seductive ride into the shadowlands of the Renaissance
Exciting and accessible
This is the sort of exhibition at which the Royal Academy excels – taking a topic of specialist, art-historical interest and making it exciting and accessible.
Exhibition in focus
What is a chiaroscuro woodcut?
Chiaroscuro – literally ‘light-dark’ – describes the effects of contrasting light and shadow in a work of art. You might have heard the term used to describe Renaissance drawing or painting, from masters like Leonardo or Caravaggio.
The lesser-known chiaroscuro woodcut was invented in the early sixteenth century when printmakers began use woodblocks and ink to imitate the painterly effects of light and shadow. The method enabled printmakers to create subtle gradations of tone, used to suggest three-dimensional volume and depth.
Making a contemporary chiaroscuro woodcut with Stephen Chambers RA
What visitors are saying
Tim: It was great to see such a range of work from the very beginnings of the technique through to the late German flowering. A mightily impressive exhibition, I thought. It was recommended to me by a friend and I would have no hesitation in recommending it to my friends too.
Ened: I thought it was amazing. Because you learn about the technique, you get more of a feel for the intentions of the artist. It’s an exhibition full of really striking and poignant images – even some of the religious works are much more moving than I usually find. The quality of the light and colour is beautiful throughout, and I’d highly recommend the audio guide – it really enhances the exhibition.
Caroline: It’s so different to anything I’ve seen in a long time. It’s fascinating to read the descriptions and find out what was really going on at the time. It’s very well explained. What excited me most was the contrast between light and shade, as well as some of the details, which are truly astonishing. I’ll definitely come back.
The beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue explores the history of the chiaroscuro woodcut technique and how its use spread across different parts of Europe in the 16th century.
Depicting detail from a Hans Wechtlin chiaroscuro print of the Virgin and Child, this lovely necklace is die-cut on cherry wood with a delicate 42cm gold-plated chain.
This beautifully framed selection of images from the Chiaroscuro prints The Triumph of Julius Caesar will be a stylish addition to any home decor scheme.
Talks and tours
Get more out of the exhibition
Free with an exhibition ticket, no booking required.
Friday 7pm (18 March - 30 May)
Exhibition spotlight talks
10 minute talks on individual works from current exhibitions, free with exhibition entry.