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Pressing Matters: 500 Years of Wine in Art from the Sterling Vineyards Print Portfolio

June 22 - August 13, 2006


The J. Wayne Stark Galleries at Texas A&M University is presenting Pressing Matters: 500 Years of Wine in Art from the Sterling Vineyards Print Portfolio, from June 22 through August 13, 2006.

Pressing Matters: 500 Years of Wine in Art from the Sterling Vineyards Print Portfolio consists of 50 prints ranging from works by 15th and 16th-century European masters to contemporary American images and are executed in a variety of printmaking techniques, including steel engraving, woodcut, etching, and lithography. Since ancient times, wine has played an important role in people's lives. In Europe and the Americas in particular, it has been a part of religious ceremonies, public celebrations, entertainment, and family meals. It is therefore only natural that artists, reflecting the life and customs of the times in which they lived, would incorporate images of wine, winemaking and grapes into their work.

Wine has always held a special place in the cultural history of the United States. According to Wikipedia; even during the time of prohibition some commercial wine was still produced in the U.S., but was only available through government warehouse for use in religious ceremonies. America began drinking wine as a nation when European immigrants brought their love of wine with them. Wine was certainly consumed before that time, but not by average Americans. Since then more and more Americans have begun enjoying this wonderful drink. Wine bars, tastings, magazines, and everyday consumption have become more frequent. In the modern world vacations, leisure time, and even lifestyles are planned around the appreciation and study of excellent wine.

Pressing Matters was originally mounted at the Napa Valley Museum in Napa, California, in 2001, where it reached a wide and appreciative audience. Although some of the prints had been displayed publicly in the past, it was the first comprehensive exhibition of the Sterling Vineyards Print Portfolio. This tour represents the first opportunity for venues across the country to display a sizable portion of works from this unique collection.

The prints are grouped into five categories: botanical prints, mythological and religious themes, harvest themes, social satires, and early advertising illustrations and diagrams. These categories emphasize the variety of the diverse pieces. For example; the hand-colored lithograph by an anonymous painter printed by Currier & Ives is a 19th century American Piece simply named The Branch Cannot Bear Fruit Except It Abide in the Vine. (see right) It stands out with its rich colors and eye-catching graphics. According to ExhibitsUSA; "the grapes pictures are allegorical or symbolic biblical passage. John 15:4-5 compares the growth of a grapevine to the spiritual growth of a Christian. Currier & Ives dominated the nineteenth-century market for affordable and attractive art for the American home. This lithography firm decorated America's walls. The firm's prolific and diverse output, some 7,000 different published topics, points to the varying values and interests of its American clientele. The many religious prints that Currier & Ives produced, such as this one, point to the strong religious tenor in the country."

This tour represents the first opportunity for venues across the country to display a substantial portion of works from the unique collection of Sterling Vineyards. Pressing Matters will have obvious appeal for wine lovers, but these outstanding prints will also attract art enthusiasts in general -- particularly those interested in the history of printmaking, botany, and mythology.

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