Jim Dine gives an exceptional collection of his prints to the British Museum in honour of Alan Cristea

The British Museum is delighted to announce a very generous gift by the American artist Jim Dine, who turns 80 this year, to the Prints and Drawings collection.

A monument to his achievements as a printmaker of the first rank, this gift of over 200 prints in single sheets, portfolios and illustrated books transforms the British Museum’s holdings of one of America’s most significant artists. The gift is made by Jim Dine in honour of Alan Cristea, the London print dealer and publisher who has championed his prints since the 1970s. From Tuesday 3 March until mid-June this year a display from this gift will be presented in the Michelangelo-end of the Prints and Drawings gallery (Room 90).

This collection of prints was the single-largest gift made to the Prints and Drawings department in 2014. Covering Dine’s career from the 1960s to the present-day, this magnificent addition to the American print collection at the British Museum consolidates an earlier gift of sixteen prints made by the artist in 1999.

A particular focus of Dine’s gift is the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when his persistent imagery emerged, notably the bathrobes, tools, hearts and paintbrushes. These motifs began as stand-ins for the artist, what he called an ‘autobiography through objects’, and gave him the licence to do what he wanted with them, in different variations and improvisations. The solitary standing robe served as a metaphor for the artist himself, its hands on hips conveying a strong masculine stance. Often monumental, being almost life-size in scale, the bathrobes express emotional intensity and mood through colour, either singly or by contrasting tones, as well as through texture and technique. The same outline might evoke a night portrait or the artist’s identification with landscape. Dine’s natural abilities as a draughtsman are combined with his technical dexterity as a printmaker. The Woodcut Bathrobe was inspired by the example of Edvard Munch; each of the sections of the woodblock was cut out and separately inked in a different colour before being reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle for printing.

Dine’s father and grandfather ran a hardware shop in Cincinnati, Ohio in the heart of America’s Mid-West, where the artist was born in 1935 and brought up. The tools that appear in his work are heavily imbued with a personal and emotional resonance. ‘When I use objects, I see them as a vocabulary of feelings’, he declared in 1970. Often depicted life-size, his tools – wrenches, pliers, bolt cutters, saws – can be read as potent male symbols, erect and upright. Through Dine’s mastery of the etched line the tools possess an extraordinary presence. The paintbrush, perhaps the artist’s most obvious tool, became the subject for some of Dine’s most exquisite etchings, where the brushes are endowed with twitching, sprouting hair, such as in his celebrated 1972-3 series of etchings, Five Paintbrushes. The same plate underwent transformative changes as more hairy paintbrushes were added, textures introduced and the plate itself reduced in size to create what Dine called his ‘first example of a serial image, building on a plate … and changing it in states, like Picasso’.

From 1967 to 1971 Dine lived and worked in London. A peripatetic artist and a compulsive printmaker, he has sought out print workshops all over the world. Many of his prints were made with Petersburg Press in London and New York as well as with Atelier Crommelynck in Paris and New York. The gift also includes later work, including self-portraits and his most recent portfolio, A History of Communism, from lithographic stones recovered from former East Germany and overlaid with his own etchings.

The display of monumental bathrobes, hairy paintbrushes, pulsating hearts and erect life-size tools offers a foretaste of works to be included in the British Museum’s major upcoming modern American prints exhibition in 2017.

Notes to Editors:

About Alan Cristea Gallery

One of Europe’s leading commercial galleries, the Alan Cristea Gallery is the primary representative for a number of established international contemporary artists, artists' estates and emerging artists. Showing a continuous programme of exhibitions including contemporary paintings, works on paper, sculpture and installations, the gallery is also the largest publisher of contemporary editions and prints in Europe. The Alan Cristea Gallery is the exclusive worldwide representative of Jim Dine's prints.

The Department of Prints and Drawings continues to acquire across a broad spectrum and to exhibit its collection to a wide audience. The principal objective is always to encourage a better understanding of the role of prints and drawings within a broad historical framework of a kind that few other collections in the world can provide.

Study room

The Prints and Drawings collection is accessible online and to anyone by coming to the Study Room via Room 90. You do not have to make an appointment to use the Study Room, but please bring a valid form of identification to gain entry.

For more information ring the study room at the Museum on 020 7323 8408.

Opening times

Monday to Friday

10.00 - 13.00 and 14.15 - 16.00 except for public holidays. Entrance is opposite Room 90 (Prints and Drawings gallery) on the fourth floor.

Further information

Contact the Press Office on 020 7323 8394 / 8522 or communications@britishmuseum.org

For public information please print britishmuseum.org or 020 7323 8181

High resolution images and caption sheet available here.

Black and White Bathrobe, 1975, lithograph, by Jim Dine (b.1935). Presented by the artist in honour of Alan Cristea. Reproduced by permission of the artist.