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Jacques Callot: Line Sublime

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Jed Perl reviews the recent exhibition Princes & Paupers: The Art of Jacques Callot at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Perl begins: "Rarely have life’s sweetness and bitterness been embraced with more evenhanded genius than in the work of Jacques Callot. The seventeenth-century French printmaker finds an ethics of vision—a way of grappling with whatever the world has to offer—in the indomitable force and lucidity of his line. Revered from his own day down to ours by those who see possibilities for transcendence in the printmaker’s technical know-how, Callot has nevertheless been a fairly minor figure in the art history books, no matter that some of his impressions of the horrors of war are as indelible as Goya’s and that his reflections on the pleasures of the theater and the fairground rival those of Rubens and Watteau. Within the frequently Lilliputian dimensions of his prints—some of the most famous ones are little more than two inches high—Callot represented beggars, gypsies, soldiers, actors, and the ladies and gentlemen of the court."

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