Exhibition | Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 16, 2012

Press release from Sue Bond:

Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from The Courtauld Gallery
The Courtauld Gallery, London, 14 June — 9 September 2012
The Frick Collection, New York, 2 October 2012 — 27 January 2013

Curated by Stephanie Buck and Colin B. Bailey

The Courtauld Gallery holds one of the most important collections of drawings in Britain. Organised in collaboration with the Frick Collection in New York, this exhibition presents a magnificent selection of some sixty of its finest works. It offers a rare opportunity to consider the art of drawing in the hands of its greatest masters, including Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Cézanne and Matisse. The Courtauld last displayed a comparable selection of its masterpieces more than twenty years ago and this exhibition will bring the collection to new audiences nationally and internationally.

The exhibition opens with a group of works dating from the 15th century, from both Northern and Southern Europe. An exquisite and extremely rare early Netherlandish drawing of a seated female saint from around 1475-85 is rooted in late medieval workshop traditions. It was also at this time that drawing assumed a new central role in nourishing individual creativity, exemplified by two rapid pen and ink sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. These remarkably free and exploratory sketches show the artist experimenting with the dynamic twisting pose of a female figure for a painting of Mary Magdalene. For Renaissance artists such as Leonardo, drawing or disegno was the fundamental basis of all the arts: the expression not just of manual dexterity but of the artist’s mind and intellect.

These ideas about the nature of drawing achieved their full expression in the flowering of draughtsmanship in the 16th century. At the heart of this section of the exhibition is Michelangelo’s magisterial The Dream. Created in 1533, this highly complex allegory was made by Michelangelo as a gift for a close friend and it was one of the earliest drawings to be produced as an independent work of art. More typically, drawings were made in preparation for other works, including paintings, sculptures and prints. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s engaging scene of drunken peasants cavorting at a festival in the Flemish village of Hoboken was drawn in 1559 in preparation for a print. Whereas Michelangelo sought ideal divinely inspired beauty in the human figure, Bruegel here revels in the disorder of everyday life.

Charles Joseph Natoire, "Life Class at the Académie Royale," 1746, watercolour, chalk (black) on paper, 454 x 323 mm, © The Courtauld Gallery, London

Despite the important preparatory function of drawing, many of the most appealing works in the exhibition were unplanned and resulted from artists reaching for their sketchbooks to capture a scene for their own pleasure. Parmigianino’s Seated woman asleep is a wonderful example of such an informal study surviving from the early 16th century. Drawn approximately 100 years later in around 1625, Guercino’s Child seen from behind retains the remarkable freshness and immediacy of momentary observation. Guercino was a compulsive and brilliantly gifted draughtsman. Here the red chalk lends itself perfectly to the play of light on the soft flesh of the child sheltering in its mother’s lap. No less appealing in its informality is Rembrandt’s spontaneous and affectionate sketch of his wife, Saskia, sitting in bed cradling one of her children. The exhibition offers a striking contrast between this modest domestic image and Peter Paul Rubens’s contemporaneous depiction of his own wife, the beautiful young Helena Fourment. Celebrated as one of the great drawings of the 17th century, this unusually large work shows the richly dressed Helena – who was then about 17 – moving aside her veil to look directly at the viewer. Created with a dazzling combination of red, black and white chalks, this drawing was made as an independent work of art and was not intended for sale or public display. In its imposing presence, mesmerising skill and subtle characterisation, it is the equal of any painted portrait.

The central role of drawing in artistic training is underlined in a remarkable sheet by Charles Joseph Natoire from 1746. It shows the artist, seated in the left foreground, instructing students during a life class at the prestigious Académie royale in Paris. Drawing after the life model and antique sculpture was considered essential in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the great champions of this academic tradition was Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. The beautiful elongated forms of the reclining nude in his Study for the ‘Grand Odalisque’, 1813-14, represents the highest refinement of a precise yet expressive linear drawing style rooted in the academy. Outside the academy, drawing could offer the artist a means of liberating creativity. Goya’s Cantar y bailar (Singing and dancing), 1819-20, comes from one of the private drawing albums which the artist used to inhabit the world of his dreams and imagination.

Canaletto’s expansive and meticulously composed View from Somerset Gardens, looking towards London Bridge is one of several highlights of a section exploring the relationship between drawing and the landscape. This group stretches back as early as Fra Bartolomeo’s Sweep of a river with fishermen drawn in around 1505-09, and also includes a particularly strong selection of landscapes from the golden age of the British watercolour. The interest in landscape is nowhere more powerfully combined with the expressive possibilities of watercolour than in the work of J.M.W. Turner. His late Dawn after the Wreck of around 1841 was immortalised by the critic John Ruskin, who imagined the solitary dog shown howling on a deserted beach to be mourning its owner, lost at sea. For Ruskin, this was one of Turner’s ‘saddest and most tender works’. (more…)

Call for Papers | Before Publication, Montage

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 16, 2012

Before Publication: Montage Between Privacy and Publicity
Zurich, 28-29 September 2012

Proposals due by 30 April 2012

Idea and Conception: Dr. des. Nanni Baltzer (Institute for Art History, University of Zurich) and Dr. Martino Stierli (Institute for the History and Theory of Architeture (gta), ETH Zurich)

At the moment of their going to press, publications irreversibly reach their definite form. At the same time, they also reach an audience. What is frequently forgotten in this process is that printing is preceded by several, sometimes complex steps towards the construction and montage of (visual) meaning. This conference sees these constructions of meaning as montages, and addresses the materials and processes involved before publication. Our focus is on concrete artistic and visual artifacts such as scrapbooks, diaries, book mock-ups, and press layouts by artists, authors, and graphic designers. In particular, we intend to shed light on the relationship between the spheres of privacy and publicity. This aspect has so far received only sparse attention, whereas questions concerning the historical genealogy of montage and collage as well their theoretical bases have increasingly been addressed in more recent research.

The conference is divided into two sections:

1) In the private realm: scrapbooks and diaries

2) For the public domain: layouts and mock-ups

Scrapbooks and diaries are for normally intended as a collection of intimate memories and souvenirs or as a kind of personal archive. They are usually only published posthumously, as documentary material or in the sense of an autonomous artistic expression. In contrast, press or book publications usually lack the mock-ups, i.e. the layout and mock-ups consisting of text and image montages. Depending on the archival situation, the more or less numerous steps that lead to a publication can be reconstructed only in singular cases in order to shed light on the production processes as well as the author’s intentions.

Products of the press are from the very beginning intended for a larger audience and aim to trigger a particular reaction by the public. For this reason, they are of high interest with regard to questions of aesthetic response. In this respect, the most important issue is how books and magazines are being produced by authors, photographers, graphic designers, and editors in reference to their audience. The relationship of montage to politics and propaganda remains to be discussed, but also questions concerning the interpretative strategies that allow for the construction of an (intended) meaning. Possible key questions on specific case studies include: the unfinished in the production of meaning through montage; the relationship of text and image; montage in press and book; ‘tabular’ montage as spatial dispositif for the production of meaning.

The focus of the conference will be on the presentation and interpretation of artifacts for which the concepts of montage, collage, and assemblage form a productive frame of reference. Individual case studies are not limited to a certain historical epoch, but should address one of the two sections sketched out above. Contributions on pre-modern subjects are explicitly welcome. We invited interested individuals from art and architectural history, history and cultural studies as well as related disciplines to send a 250-word abstract and short cv to Nanni Baltzer and Martino Stierli (nannibaltzer@gmx.net, martino.stierli@gta.arch.ethz.ch) by April 30, 2012.

Confirmations will be sent out by end of May, 2012. The definitive program will by communicated by the end of May 2012. The conference will take place in Zurich on September 28 and 29, 2012. The conference is co-organized by the Institute for Art History of the University of Zurich and the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), ETH Zurich. Depending on funding, grants for travel and accommodation will be made available. A selection of the contributions will be published.

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