Prints and Visual Communication

By William M. Ivins Jr. | Go to book overview

I
INTRODUCTION THE BLOCKED ROAD TO PICTORIAL COMMUNICATION

IN 1916 and 1917, when the department of prints of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was being started, there was much talk and argument about what the character of its collection should be. In the course of those discussions I became aware that the backward countries of the world are and have been those that have not learned to take full advantage of the possibilities of pictorial statement and communication, and that many of the most characteristic ideas and abilities of our western civilization have been intimately related to our skills exactly to repeat pictorial statements and communications.

My experience during the following years led me to the belief that the principal function of the printed picture in western Europe and America has been obscured by the persistent habit of regarding prints as of interest and value only in so far as they can be regarded as works of art. Actually the various ways of making

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