December 23, 2012

The case for the Fine Print

The late David Becker developed a deep appreciation of printmakers and their art while at Bowdoin College. He paid it forward with his bequest to the school of some 1,500 works, about 80 of which are now on view in its art museum.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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“The Language of Birds,” 1996 soft-ground etching, aquatint and lithograph by American artist Mel Chin.

Images courtesy of Bowdoin College

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“The Reader,” 1892 lithograph by French artist Odilon Redon.

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 245 Maine St., Brunswick

WHEN: Through March 24

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with evening hours until 8:30 p.m. Thursday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum will close Monday for the holidays and reopen at 10 a.m. Jan. 2.


INFO: 725-3275;

Perhaps no category better represents Becker than the letter "K," which stands for "knowledge."

Homann chose three prints for this topic: A 16th-century Durer engraving of a scholar in his study; a Rembrandt etching of a man contemplating the Bible in the dark; and Redon's 1892 lithograph "The Reader," depicting a balding, bearded man seated comfortably in a chair with a book open on the table. There is a candle to the side, and light streaming in a window. Other books are scattered about.

The subject of the print could well be Becker himself. 


Becker never stopped learning, and always tried to improve himself by exploring his interests with vigor. His print collecting was just one example, and certainly the most public and obvious, Homann said.

"The Redon lithograph affords a perspective of the great joys of learning, and that is what motivated David Becker as a scholar and as a collector," he said.

Maine arts writer Carl Little met Becker in the early 1980s when Little worked at a print gallery in New York City that specialized in European prints. When Little later moved to Maine, he got to know Becker well, often visiting him at his home in Portland's West End.

"He was the consummate scholar," Little said. "The range of his interests, from the old masters to the contemporary, was so thorough and so deep."

As impressed as she was by the quality of the prints, what impressed Cooney most was the generosity of the collector.

"I think it's amazing that someone can be so focused and passionate about something, and then to be so generous and share it, making it accessible to not only museum-goers, but students -- which of course he was himself when he started collecting," she said.

"It's a nicely completed circle that will continue to give."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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“The Entombment,” 16th-century etching by Italian artist Parmigiano.

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“Branches,” ca. 1880 etching by French artist Rodolphe Bresdin.

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“St. Jerome in His Study,” 1514 engraving by German artist Albrecht Durer.

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