A Poetic Sensibility: Contemporary Prints from the Gift of James Kraft, Class of 1957
This group of cabinet-sized prints and photographs has been selected from the gift of contemporary prints assembled by James Kraft, Class of 1957. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing through 1992, Kraft amassed over six hundred works, including prints, photographs, illustrated books, portfolios, and various original works on paper. To this day, the Kraft collection is one of the largest gifts ever made to the Princeton University Art Museum, and it constitutes the backbone of the Museum’s contemporary print holdings. The collection features an extraordinary range of artists, particularly those better known for paintings and sculpture than for printmaking. The diversity of these artists reflects Kraft’s goal: forming a collection of prints that would faithfully represent contemporary American cultural activity, from small introspective impressions to large virtuosic showpieces. Kraft’s collection contains works by contemporary artists who employ virtually every printmaking technique utilized in Western art, from mezzotint to monotype, including offset lithography, screen printing, and other commercial processes, either as they have been traditionally practiced or as they are applied experimentally. He also saved correspondence, gallery announcements, and magazine articles, providing the Museum with a fascinating archive.
A great collection can often provide valuable insights into the personality of the collector. Jim Kraft earned a doctorate in English literature before establishing a career as a highly respected director for development of many illustrious arts organizations and museums. As a program developer at the National Endowment for the Humanities he honed an understanding of the need to the support the institutions that nurture artistic talent. Yet it is Kraft’s predisposition to narrative or serial imagery combined with a lyrical use of materials that is most evident throughout these works, reminding us of his initial dedication to literature, and suggesting his poetic sensibilities as a collector.
Calvin Brown, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings