Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers Spotlights Captivating Architectural Prints

March 19, 2012

New Brunswick, NJ – The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers presents Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms, a noted 20th-century American etcher who captured intricate details of some of the most recognized Western architectural icons. Selected from the museum’s collection, twenty-four prints offer exquisite views of France’s Gothic churches, Venice’s glorious Grand Canal palaces, and picturesque French and Italian towns made during the artist’s travels between 1919 and 1940, as well as a 1935 view of Manhattan’s skyline. The exhibition is on view from April 14 through July 31, 2012.

“Arms believed that Gothic architecture was the supreme expression of mankind’s aspirations and dedicated his career to creating prints conveying the uplifting qualities of Europe’s architectural masterpieces,” stated Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings, who organized the exhibition. This exhibition showcases the artist’s technical virtuosity in etchings documenting Europe’s most celebrated French Gothic cathedrals of Chartres, Rouen, and Sens, along with rare, close-up glimpses of the gargoyle adornments.

Born in Washington, DC, in 1887, John Taylor Arms studied law at Princeton University before transferring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1907 to pursue a degree in architecture. From 1912 to 1914, he created meticulous drawings for the prestigious New York architectural firm Carrère and Hastings, while also overseeing his own architecture practice. In 1913, shortly after Arms married, his wife presented him with an amateur etching kit and he taught himself printmaking. In 1916, Arms gave up his architectural practice to enlist in the Navy, serving on convoy duty during World War I.

Arms decided to dedicate his career to printmaking in 1919; four years later, he began his ambitious project of documenting Europe's major churches with a series of etchings. Traveling throughout France, Italy, and Spain, he drew hundreds of studies of Gothic structures from which he later created detailed etchings in his Connecticut studio. Many of these images also appeared as illustrations in two books written by his wife Dorothy Noyes Arms: Churches of France (1929) and Hill Towns and Cities of Northern Italy (1932), which also are on display. Esteemed by his peers for his printmaking expertise, Arms was an active member of several American etching societies and helped to increase the visibility of prints at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and National Academy of Design exhibitions. He authored dozens of articles about etching and aquatint techniques, in addition to the instructive Handbook of Print Making and Print Makers (1934). Arms died in Connecticut in 1953.

John Taylor Arms’s achievements represent the potential of human craftsmanship often overshadowed by technology in many of today’s creative processes. At a quick glance, some of his prints appear to be photographs. But upon closer inspection, the images demonstrate the finesse of the artist’s hand and keen observation. While modern artists – and non-artists – take for granted the convenience of zoom lenses, camera phones, and enhancement software, Arms took great care in selecting his vantage points, including climbing up church towers to capture hand-crafted details from a bygone pre-industrial era.

To contextualize these prints by John Taylor Arms, the exhibition includes an introduction to the history of architectural prints, with works ranging from a splendid 18th-century view of Rome by Giovanni Battista Piranesi to a 2001 print of the World Trade Center by Richard Haas. This display also includes a mid-19th-century view of medieval buildings in Paris by French printmaker Charles Meryon, as well as prints by Arms’s contemporaries Samuel Chamberlain, Kerr Eby, Gerald Geerlings, and Ernest D. Roth. “We are very pleased that this exhibition provides the opportunity to highlight the diversity of the museum’s extensive American and European print collection, while also offering images of architectural significance to all who enjoy remarkable buildings,” said Zimmerli director Suzanne Delehanty.

A reception for Aspects of Architecture: The Prints of John Taylor Arms takes place during Art After Hours on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. The evening begins with a 5:30 exhibition tour, led by Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings. A performance of medieval music complements the inspiring prints of Gothic architecture, beginning at 6:30 p.m. An informal class teaching perspective drawing for aspiring artists of all ages takes place from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. Art After Hours is the popular eclectic evening series held on the first Wednesday of the month from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Zimmerli, inviting visitors to explore the galleries, as well as enjoy a variety of entertainment.


The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in nineteenth-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.


The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Johnson & Johnson; and the donors, members, and friends of the museum.


The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and the first Wednesday of each month (except August), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, major holidays, and the month of August. Please note the museum is closed December 24 and 25, and January 1.

Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65; and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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