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A medical drawing of the back of a woman whose skin is peeled back to reveal muscle and skeletal system. Her face is turned away from the viewer.

Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment

By Harvard Art Museums
Art, Film, and Visual Studies, History of Art and Architecture

Saturday, October 8, 2022 10am to 5pm

+ 8 dates

  • Sunday, October 9, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Monday, October 10, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Tuesday, October 11, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Wednesday, October 12, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Thursday, October 13, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Friday, October 14, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday, October 15, 2022 10am to 5pm
  • Sunday, October 16, 2022 10am to 5pm
A medical drawing of the back of a woman whose skin is peeled back to reveal muscle and skeletal system. Her face is turned away from the viewer.

Event Dates

Saturday, October 8, 2022 10am to 5pm

Harvard Art Museums Free Event
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See how the graphic arts inspired, shaped, and gave immediacy to new ideas in the Enlightenment era, encouraging individuals to follow their own reason when seeking to know more.

What role did drawings and prints play during the Enlightenment era, from roughly 1720 to 1800? Dare to Know explores many nuances of this complex time—when political and cultural revolutions swept across Europe and the Americas, spurring profound shifts in science, philosophy, the arts, social and cultural encounters, and our shared sense of history. Indeed, the Enlightenment itself has been described as a “revolution of the mind.” Novel concepts in every realm of intellectual inquiry were communicated not only through text and speech, but in prints and drawings that gave these ideas a visual, concrete form. They made new things visible—and familiar things visible in powerful new ways. They wielded the potential to visually articulate, reinforce, or contradict beliefs as well as biases, while also arguing for social action and imagining new realities.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in response to a 1784 journal article asking “What Is Enlightenment?,” argued that the Enlightenment’s main impulse was to “dare to know!”: to pursue knowledge for oneself, without relying on others to interpret facts and experiences. But is this ever truly possible?

Bringing together 150 prints, drawings, books, and other related objects from Harvard as well as collections in the United States and abroad, this exhibition offers provocative insights into both the achievements and the failures of a period whose complicated legacies reverberate still today. Dare to Know asks new and sometimes uncomfortable questions of the so-called age of reason, inviting visitors to embrace the Enlightenment’s same spirit of inquiry—to investigate, to persuade, and to imagine.

Event Details