James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne. c. 1878. Wash lithograph on blue tinted chine collé. Image and original data provided by the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University.

James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne. c. 1878. Wash lithograph on blue tinted chine collé. Image and original data provided by the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University.

The Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University (DAC) has contributed 4,300 additional images of works on paper from their permanent collection to the Artstor Digital Library bringing their total to more than 6,300.* The selection in Artstor includes many highlights, with an emphasis on western prints from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.

A survey of the generous offerings from the DAC in Artstor provides an education in the history of European and American printmaking and a chronicle of techniques. Consider, for example, the diverse renderings of night effects in Rembrandt’s Adoration of the Shepherds, 1657, a velvety darkness achieved by using engraving, etching and drypoint, alongside the liquid Nocturne of James McNeill Whistler, c. 1878, a lithograph that derives much of its atmosphere from the blue paper (above).


In fashion, Muffs and Finery, 1647, an etching by the Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Hollar, nails the textures of luxury accessories, while Honoré Daumier characteristically pokes fun at the mania for crinolines in An Excusable Error, a lithograph of 1857, and the business of the industry is defined by the crisp lines of the woodcut La Modiste (The Hatmaker), 1894, by Félix Vallotton.


The animal kingdom is also well served by the effects of virtuoso printmakers: the essence of the self-contained feline is perfectly captured by the Dutch artist Cornelis de Visscher with the combination of etching and engraving in his Cat Asleep, 17th c., while his contemporary Paulus Potter evokes the ultimate equine in his portrait of a prized Friesian Horse whose braided mane and dappled roan coat are expertly etched. By contrast, in January, 1938, the American artist Grant Wood has exploited lithography to render the coats of his horses fuzzy, soft and warm against the snow.


In the realm of the unexpected, surrealism avant la lettre is epitomized by the startling Stranded Lobster, 1910, a drypoint by the Austrian artist Richard Müller, while the pure spirit of the movement is embodied by the The Hand, 1964, a color lithograph by René Magritte.


The Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University collection consists of some 24,000 works on paper, mostly prints and photographs, as well as objects in other media. The Davison print collection is among the finest in American college museums. It includes impressions by Dürer and Northern and Italian Renaissance artists: Rembrandt and his contemporaries; Goya; nineteenth-century French painter-printmakers such as Manet and Millet; and American modern and contemporary artists, especially Jim Dine. The collection includes multiple states of many prints, providing a historical window into techniques and creative processes. There are also about 600 Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts and significant holdings illuminating the early histories of mezzotint and lithography.

The DAC’s photographs range from calotypes and daguerreotypes made in the 1840s to work by later photographers such as Lewis Hine and Berenice Abbott, and images by contemporary artists including Duane Michals and Cindy Sherman.

The DAC was established in 1952 in an addition to the Alsop House on the campus of Wesleyan University. The historic house dates to the pre-Civil War period, built between 1838-1840 by Richard Alsop IV. In 1948, it was purchased by Wesleyan with funds given by Harriet and George W. Davison (B.A. Wesleyan 1892) who also donated the founding collection, some 6,000 prints from their personal collection. They commissioned the renovation and restoration of the house, including the addition of the museum, according to the design of architect A.L. Harmon.

The Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University collection is being released as part of a thematic launch on American college museums that includes selections from the Ackland Art Museum (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; The Davis Museum at Wellesley College; the Ringling Theatre Collection (University of Florida); the Tufts University Art Gallery; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Art Collection; and the Williams College Museum of Art.

View the collection in the Artstor Digital Library, or learn more at the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University collection page.

*Image totals may vary from country to country, reflecting Artstor’s obligation to address the specifics of international copyright.