AMERICAN HISTORICAL PRINT COLLECTORS SOCIETY:
38TH ANNUAL MEETING IN CINCINNATI
By Kevin Ott
The American Historical Print Collectors Society (AHPCS) will hold its 38th Annual Meeting in Cincinnati May 15th-18th. This august group of 450 collectors, dealers and curators was formed to “encourage collection, preservation, study of original historical American prints that are 100 or more years old”.
Admittedly, this is a small group of people, the AHPCS, almost arcane, its interest in prints– the technique, preservation, provenance and collection– not something that appeals to a broad swath of art lovers, and certainly, in this age of mega art fairs, big name museum shows, video art and the hyper-expensive contemporary art scene, a more understated, academic and relaxed sub group of the art world. But, their importance cannot be understated. It is their interest, their generosity and their expertise that fuels the pipeline of fine prints that flows into institutions for all of us to enjoy. It is safe to say that the vast majority of fine prints and photographs in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s great collection came through generous donors who, like AHPCS members, are passionate, knowledgeable and generous. One such person is Cincinnatian, Allen Bernard who is, in large part, responsible for the Annual Meeting taking place in Cincinnati.
Allen Bernard is a long-time collector of prints and donor to the Art Museum’s collection. He is quick to point out Cincinnati’s importance to the world of print both commercially and artistically. Cincinnati had a substantial presence and was a leading center in the world of print and engraving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the AHPCS Winter Newsletter, Allen and fellow Cincinnatian Virginius Hall note that “The Strobridge Printing Company produced thousands of posters advertising circuses and other entertainments. Multiple artists were trained at The Cincinnati Art Academy under the tutelage of Frank Duveneck, whose printmaking career in Venice paralleled that of James Whistler. The Second oldest etching club in the United States was established here in 1879 to encourage etching as an artistic medium.”
The universe of historical prints that collectors focus on can vary wildly; from Currier & Ives to sporting prints to Audubon and other botanical print makers to the fine art etchings, dry points, wood cuts and stone lithographs of a multitude of historically important artists such as Duveneck. Most collectors focus on one or another of the many particular sub-genres, delving further and deeper into its particular nuances and qualities. The AHPCS seems to cast a fairly wide net—the limits being the age (100+ years) and the American pedigree.
Approximately 70 to 80 people are expected to attend the Annual Meeting here, which, fittingly, will be held at the historic Netherland Plaza Hotel. Wes Cowan, noted auctioneer and PBS television personality will open the meeting. Presentations and lectures by curators and experts will be held at the Museum Center, the Art Museum, the Mercantile Library and the Public Library. Of special interest to print enthusiast will be a “Print Mart” after dinner at the Netherland one evening—a sort of mini-print show, with a select few dealers proffering some of their stock. The schedule, available on the AHPCS web site, is chalk full of activities, including a B+B Riverboat cruise and a Banquet and auction at the Netherland on the final night.
Cincinnati is fortunate to have the enthusiasm and energy of people such as Allen Bernard and Virginius Hall and the institutions and curators that conserve and respect the value of this great, historical body of work.