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Allentown museum announces recent acquisitions

  • One of the 12 Passion prints by Johann Bussemacher recently acquired by the Allentown Art Museum.
    One of the 12 Passion prints by Johann Bussemacher recently acquired by the Allentown Art Museum.
Published April 30. 2012 05:03PM

The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley has acquired a number of new artworks in recent months to add to its extensive permanent holdings, which now include more than 17,000 pieces.

"We're always looking to collect works that we feel should be preserved for future generations and that will help us fulfill our mission today as an educational resource," says Sofia Bakis, coordinator for Collections and Exhibitions.

Recent acquisitions include a set of 12 German Passion prints that incorporate textiles and extensive hand painting. The prints, by Johann Bussemacher, were published in 1582 and 1583 and were based on a set of passion prints by J. Sadeler after designs by Martin de Vos.

The technique of adorning devotional prints with fabric is called Spickelbilder (larded images). The prints were decorated by nuns to cater to the market for pious devotional images.

Surviving examples are extremely rare. The only other known dressed prints from this series are in the Germanishches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany; they have only five from the series, with fabrics but no hand coloring.

The prints were offered by Helmut Rumbler, Frankfort, Germany, and are in remarkably good condition, with the colors appearing fresh. The Bussemacher acquisition was made possible with the generous assistance of the SOTA (Society of the Arts) Print Fund and the Rev. and Mrs. Van S. Merle-Smith Jr. Endowment Fund.

Another work acquired with the support of the SOTA Print Fund is a line engraving by the English poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake, titled With Dreams upon my bed thou scarest and affrighest me. The 17-inch by 13-inch proof appeared as plate 11 in the first published edition of The Book of Job (1825).

Additional acquisitions include paintings by Thomas Birch, John Clem Clarke, Hans Moller, John Opie and William Swallow; photographs by Theo Anderson and Josephine Sacabo; sculptures by Susan Opie; and and works on paper by Wenceslaus Hollar, Thomas Lias, Giovanni Battist Piranesi, Samuel Palmer and Louise Pithoud.

Founded in 1934 by the teacher, painter and critic Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956), the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley has become the premier visual arts institution in the region, serving as an important cultural destination as well as a vital element in the economic revitalization of downtown Allentown and the surrounding area.

The Museum's newly renovated and expanded 48,900-square-foot facility showcases a growing collection of more than 17,000 works of art of international importance, allowing visitors to experience a broad spectrum of art representing diverse media, materials and techniques from an equally diverse range of countries and cultures.

In 1974 the Museum received prestigious accreditation from the American Association of Museums and today remains one of just 299 art museums of the 15,000 museums nationwide accorded this status.

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