When you think woodcuts, the artist that springs to mind is Albrecht Durer for famous works like Melancholia and the Apocalypse series. But the medium was practised by many other artists and this exhibition brings together two collections to show that many Italian artists also created woodcuts.
The technique of producing a woodcut may be seen as halfway between creating a print and carving a sculpture, and videos in this exhibition truly bring home how difficult this process can be. When viewing the works, this knowledge makes them appear all the more remarkable given the level of detail in some of the pieces.
The diversity on show is impressive, from the intricately detailed suits of armour of a knight on horseback by Hans Burgkmair to the energy in Niccolo Vincentino’s Hercules wrestling with the Nemean lion. Andrea Andreani’s Triumph of Caesar has the look of a tapestry while many of Ugo da Carpi’s works are replete with multiple characters creating a hectic scene.
There are over 150 woodcuts on display yet it never feels like any pieces have been included to fill the space, and the exhibition does a great job of highlighting the differences in style and the development of this technique in both Italy and Germany. The only downside is that often the exhibition focuses too much on the technique used to create each work rather than drawing attention to what is represented in each piece.
Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna is on at The Royal Academy of Arts from 15 March until 8 June. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available.