Let me see it in print: the beauty of the “Beasts”


Photos Courtesy of The British Museum Stop by the Hoehn Family Galleries and see the print of the world-famous “Dürer’s Rhinoceros.”

Photos Courtesy of The British Museum
Stop by the Hoehn Family Galleries and see the print of the world-famous “Dürer’s Rhinoceros.”

On Friday, Oct. 3, the University of San Diego unveiled its brand new, groundbreaking art exhibition, “Curious Beasts: Animal Prints from Dürer to Goya.” This ambitious project marks the start of a five-year partnership with the British Museum, home to one of the most extensive and admired collections of prints and drawings in the world. Not only is it a milestone for the university, but it is a first in the San Diego art community.

“This is the first time that any museum in San Diego has partnered this deeply with the British Museum and we are excited about that,” said Derrick Cartwright, the director of university galleries at USD and a professor in the art history department.

The exhibit seeks to showcase the incredible art of printmaking through the lens of beastly creatures and animal prints. It is one of the largest exhibits ever to be showcased by university galleries, displaying the depth of the British partnership as well as the university’s commitment to improving its own collection.

“[It] is an exhibition of more than 80 works of art that was organized by the British Museum,” said Cartwright. “We added about 15 of our own prints to their presentation, along with some natural science specimens from the San Diego Natural History Museum so that the USD presentation is unique.”

The large collection of works is divided between the Hoehn Family Galleries in Founders Hall and the Fine Art Galleries located in the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice. The four sections of the exhibit will highlight key aspects relating to the animal prints such as the symbolic representation of animals and the role of the prints in the scientific world. Together, the galleries will offer insight into humanity’s deep-rooted curiosity with the animal kingdom through prints that span several centuries and feature some of the history’s greatest artists.

“Students can come to the galleries and encounter original works of art by some of the most renowned artists in history,” Cartwright said. “Here we are really privileged to show some of the works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, George Stubbs and many other leading artists from the 15th through the 19th centuries.”

Among the works present are some very famous and signature pieces, including, “Dürer’s Rhinoceros,” an iconic woodcut by artist Albrecht Dürer. He had never actually seen a rhinoceros at the time the woodcut was completed and did the entire thing based on a written description and a sketch of an Indian rhinoceros. This helps to explain the animal’s armor-like skin in the woodcut and embodies the central themes of curiosity and discovery present in the exhibit.

“Durer’s ‘Rhinoceros’ is one of the most celebrated woodcuts of all time and we have an excellent impression of it here for the next two and a half months,” Cartwright said. “Engaging with a work that is 500 years old and studying it whenever you want for free is something that I want everyone to experience.”

Students will have ample opportunity to experience the signature pieces and to simply immerse themselves in the art of the British Museum. There are a number of planned events (what is the planned event?) coming up including one on Oct. 23, hosted by Associated Students. There will also be many future opportunities for students interested in learning more about the projects.

“This is the first of three exhibitions that we are planning to do with them over the next five years, Cartwright said. “In intervening years, a couple of lucky USD students will have the chance to go to London and work on the exhibitions that will travel here. This amounts to an experience that rivals the best museum training on any American college campus. I am proud that we can do this at USD.”

This project will offer a lot of great chances for art students and any students to see world-class art here at USD.