The nativity, the story of the birth of Jesus, has been a principal subject in Western art since the fourth century.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Gallery is featuring an exhibition titled “The Nativity,” a display of 16th through 18th century prints that focus on the humanity of the biblical event.
The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, starts Thursday, Dec. 6, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. in the gallery, room 154, Mitchell Hall, 3203 N. Downer Ave. Ron Dunnett, an authority on prints, will give a gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.
Artists represented in the exhibition include Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Annibale Carracci, Adriaen Collaert, Christoffel Van Sichem II and others. The 27 etchings and engravings were selected from more than 1,500 prints bequeathed to the university this year by the late Emile H. Mathis II, a Racine art collector and dealer. The Mathis bequest, which also included more than 500 pieces of African art, was the largest of its kind ever made to the UWM Art Collection.
“Religious themes were an essential part of art for many centuries,” says Linda Brazeau, curator of the art collection, “and the nativity was a major artistic theme from the New Testament.” Themes depicted in the prints are based on narratives from the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke, including the annunciation, the adoration of the shepherds, the adoration of the magi and the flight into Egypt.
One of Emile Mathis’ reasons for his bequest was to make his collection of art accessible to the university’s students and teachers, to scholars and researchers, and to the general public,” says Brazeau. “This exhibition provides an opportunity to share the spirit of his intent with exceptional prints from his collection that complement the season.”
“The Nativity” runs through Jan. 11, 2013. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4