Modern Art of the Print: Revisited

October 04, 2014 - December 14, 2014

Thirty years ago, while working at the Williams College Museum of Art, I had the privilege to work on a powerhouse exhibition, The Modern Art of The Print, which focused on the preeminence of 20th century printmaking. It was a stunning show; all the works were drawn from a single private collection and they were all top-shelf.

The production of the exhibition was a collaborative affair between the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Williams College Museum of Art, and the curatorial team was a star-studded cast with a few rookies, like myself, to ensure that the actual work got done. My first official task for the team was to take the collectors’ Jaguar to get washed. On opening night, hundreds of people from Boston and Manhattan joined the throng from campus and were knocked out by the spectacular works displayed on the walls.  No one in attendance that night had any idea of the ordeals that the exhibition’s production entailed or the lingering animosity between most of the key people who brought this exhibition to life.

Few understood that the exhibit was the Museum’s version of the film Heaven’s Gate.  That said, the exhibition came to be a career-defining experience for me.  When the mix of egos and attitudes turned toxic, I was assigned the task of clandestinely keeping the exhibition on track. In my role I learned more about art and the mechanics of the art world than in any of my graduate seminars.  And four years later, the exhibition continued to influence my career: a chance encounter with a visitor on my last day of work at the Williams College Museum resulted in a $3 million dollar gift in my first week on the job in my new role as director of the University of Maine Museum of Art.

As good as The Modern Art of the Print exhibition was back in 1984, my feeling has always been that it would have been an even better show with a more cohesive body of work if it hadn’t been put together by a fractious team of all too special people–a situation akin to too many celebrity chefs in the kitchen.

By “revisiting” this exhibition from the singular perspective of one curator, myself, who coincidentally had a role in the first version of the show, I wanted to assemble a group of prints that worked better together and, in doing so, better illustrated the strength of late 20th- and early 21st century printmaking.  This exhibition is simply more about the prints than the politics.

I also wanted to accomplish three things: to share bits of this unique and previously untold story with you; to update the concept of the original exhibition by including a selection of more recent prints to show you how rich and vital printmaking continues to be in the 21stCentury; and to share a glimpse of the rich resources that the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has in its permanent collection.

Charles A. Shepard III


President, CEO, & Chief Curator

Exhibited Artists




Garo Zareh Antreasian Tom Huck Pablo Picasso Donald Krumpos and Johanna W. Winters
John Baeder Ray Johnson Larry Poons
Francesco Clemente Sol LeWitt Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Warrington W. Colescott Brice Marden Robert Rauschenberg
Robert Cottingham Henri Matisse Joel Elias Shapiro
Honore Daumier Frederick Mershimer Steven Sorman
William Fick Robert Motherwell Robert Stackhouse
Nancy Stevenson Graves Elizabeth Murray Sean Starwars
William Gropper Louise Nevelson Pat Steir
Erich Heckel Claes Oldenburg Jacques Villon