Bringing the pioneering spirit of 15th-century German printmaker, artist, and publisher Israhel van Meckenem to the forefront, the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is currently displaying an innovative exhibition titled "Art of Enterprise: Israhel van Meckenem's 15th-Century Print Workshop." The exhibition, which will run until March 24, 2024, showcases van Meckenem's significant contributions to the genre of printmaking and his distinct approach that blurred the line between originality and imitation.
A Media Influencer Ahead of His Time
Van Meckenem, known for being one of the earliest creators to use his name as a trademark, has been recognized as a media influencer and entrepreneur of his time. The exhibition, featuring more than sixty objects, includes van Meckenem's engravings and his copies of images from fellow artists like Master E.S., Martin Schongauer, and Albrecht Durer.
The exhibit goes beyond showcasing the physical works of art, delving into the philosophical realm of what defines originality. Unlike traditional imitators, van Meckenem added his unique touch to the copies he made, often enhancing the original works by decluttering compositions, boosting clarity, and punctuating certain elements. A notable example is the piece, Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons, where van Meckenem's interventions are visibly evident.
The Legacy of the Print Workshop
In addition to the sheer artistic value, the exhibition also scrutinizes the historical significance of image dissemination in the 15th century, the dawn of print media. By curating works from major museums such as the National Gallery of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the showcase of van Meckenem's works provides a comprehensive view of the artist's entrepreneurial spirit and his lasting influence on the industry.