The Department of Drawings and Prints boasts more than one million drawings, prints, and illustrated books made in Europe and the Americas from around 1400 to the present day. Because of their number and sensitivity to light, the works can only be exhibited for a limited period and are usually housed in on-site storage facilities. To highlight the vast range of works on paper, the department organizes four rotations a year in The Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery. Each installation is the product of a collaboration among curators and consists of up to one hundred objects grouped by artist, technique, style, period, or subject.
This installation features works that commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Highlights include four rare drawings by the artist, as well as a number of works on paper related to his legacy. A magnificent series of knots by Albrecht Dürer, which are believed to depend on designs by Leonardo, are also on view with a selection of late fifteenth-century engravings. The installation additionally presents a cross-section of the department's collection of Harper's-related material, including illustrations for Harper's Weekly by the preeminent American artist Winslow Homer and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. A large selection of works by the leading designer of American posters, Edward Penfield, who worked almost exclusively for the publishing house of Harper & Brothers, is also on view. The installation also presents virtuosic prints from the first half of the twentieth century by the American artist Peggy Bacon.