How Leo Steinberg Saw the Profound Importance of Prints Before Most

Pablo Picasso, “Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette dans la nuit [Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl in the Night],” plate 97 from the Suite Vollard, 1933, 13 3/8 x 17 5/16 inches (Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin, the Leo Steinberg Collection, 2002 © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

In 2002, the renowned art historian Leo Steinberg shocked the art world by selling his encyclopedic print collection — over 3,500 pieces spanning the Renaissance to Modern periods — to the Blanton, then a little-known museum at the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly 20 years later, a new display of 200 works from this collection, After Michelangelo, Past Picasso: Leo Steinberg’s Library of Prints, is the first exhibition to examine how Steinberg’s prints impacted his ideas and writing, which in turn shaped much of 20th-century Western thought on art.

Born Zalman Lev Steinberg in Moscow in 1920 to German Jewish parents, Steinberg and his family left Russia after his father ran afoul with Lenin’s government. The family moved to Berlin, where at age 12 Steinberg picked up his first art book, on Italian Renaissance painting.

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