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UC Berkeley Press Release

Ando Hiroshige print This 1847-48 woodcut by Ando Hiroshige, "Fireworks at Ryogoku Bridge," is among the artworks available through the Graphic Arts Loan Collection. (Images courtesy the Morrison Library)

Morrison Library revives Graphic Arts Loan program

– The University of California, Berkeley's Morrison Library is reviving a Graphic Arts Loan Collection program that 50 years ago began placing Picassos, Miros and the works of other renowned and emerging artists into the hands of students, faculty and staff.

Rhino print
Seeking motivation? This 1989 print by an unknown South African artist might be just the thing to hang on a dorm or office wall.
"Cal alums tell me how proud they were to show off this original art in their simple digs," said Tom Leonard, UC Berkeley librarian. "I predict that a new generation at Cal will boast about this on Facebook and MySpace. Once the prints leave the Morrison Library, they will become part of the stories our students tell about themselves."

To that end, the Morrison Library is launching a new website with images of approximately 700 framed original, numbered prints that are signed by their creators. The artwork can be perused and favorites selected for checkout. Borrowers with valid UC Berkeley identification can reserve artwork online and next Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 2-3), library staff will begin handing over the artwork to students.

One of the program's first customers was UC Berkeley alumnus David Littlejohn, now an emeritus professor at the campus's Graduate School of Journalism. During his senior year, he and a roommate shared a second floor apartment on 58th Street near Telegraph Avenue, just over the Oakland city limit. They feasted on homemade pizza, salad and cheap jug wine with friends in their home that was decorated with a handful of inexpensive, commercial prints of old masters such as Cezanne, Vermeer and Feininger.

"But we wanted to impress our girlfriends and guests with our impeccable taste, so we stood in line at the Morrison (Library) Room and came home with a fantastic tangled-line ink drawing - or possibly a print - by Stanley William Hayter that now would sell in the thousands," said Littlejohn. "It instantly upgraded our humble flat, and probably the whole neighborhood. We were so cool - although I'm not sure we used that word in 1958."

Composition by Sonia Delaunay
"Composition," an undated lithograph by Sonia Delaunay, is part of the loan collection.
Herwin Schaefer, UC Berkeley emeritus professor of architecture, said the program began with University Librarian Donald Coney. He recalled that Coney had some money that he wanted to spend on reproductions of famous paintings that could be loaned to students, and brought up the idea with Schaefer, who was teaching in decorative arts and the history of design. Schaefer said he nixed the idea of buying reproductions and insisted on original prints.

He personally chose the first prints in the collection, which he saw as a powerful extension of UC Berkeley's art education and a tool to help students develop an appreciation for art by living with original prints for a semester.

Littlejohn is living proof. Today his home features what he calls "mostly affordable prints," such as an 1896 Cezanne lithograph, a 1970 Calder, "a dream" Wayne Thiebaud aquatint, a George Deem "almost Vermeer" oil, a big Tom Holland 3-D watercolor, and prints by Sylvia Mangold, Rupert Garcia, James Rosenquist, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Stephanie Weber and William T. Wiley.

"And it all began at the Morrison Room in 1958," Littlejohn said. "I'm so pleased it's being brought back."

John August Swanson's Rainy Day
John August Swanson's Rainy Day, a 1981 serigraph, can be borrowed through the Graphic Arts Loan Collection.
That 1958 inaugural exhibit drew more than 5,000 visitors to the Morrison Library in just two weeks. The night before the loan program began, students had a picnic and camped outside Doe Library, some sleeping on its steps. In two hours, all 158 prints were loaned out to students for a nominal $1 each.

"Year after year, it became more popular and we got more prints," Schaefer said.

The library's art loan program was disrupted for nearly a decade because of seismic work at Doe Library and a lengthy appraisal of the collection. Each piece of artwork available for loan to the campus community is valued at $600 or less, said Warren. Some 70 items in the collection worth more than that are kept out of circulation. Thirty of those are on permanent loan to the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. Schaefer called the removal of some prints from circulation "sad but inevitable."

During the program's hiatus, Warren said Internet and computer programming advances have allowed the library to create a new platform for a faster and extremely user-friendly, online checkout with no camping out required.

However, there is a hierarchy. Only students are eligible to reserve art during the first few days of operation this semester. Then professors and staff can take their place in the cyber checkout line. Art can be picked up at the Morrison Library on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Self Portrait by Carol Whipple Anderson
Looking up at Carol Whipple Anderson's woodblock print "Self-Portrait" might provide inspiration — or at least commiseration — for a writer's blocked student facing a term-paper deadline..
The rules are simple. The limit per person is two prints for one semester. Prints can be renewed when the fall semester ends, but must be returned before the summer break. Items are not to be loaned to anyone else, copied, removed from their frames or placed in damp rooms or in direct sunlight. If a print isn't returned or comes back damaged, the borrower must pay the library the value of the piece and appraisal costs. Otherwise, the loan is free.

"Berkeley students are pretty responsible people," said Alex Warren, head of the Morrison Library.

The proceeds of past fees were added to seed money contributed early on by the Columbia Foundation, the International Graphic Arts Society, individual donors and families. The funds have allowed the purchase of new lithographs, woodblock prints, etchings and engravings ranging from Baroque to the avant-garde, said Warren.

Some might wonder why the Morrison Library operates the Graphic Arts Loan Collection. Not Warren, who said it's an ideal fit for the reading room/browsing library with its trademark comfortable sofas, overstuffed chairs and extensive collection of current fiction and non-fiction, contemporary poetry, music CDs and walls adorned with artwork. In many ways, Warren said, borrowers are treating art like a book.