Exhibition | A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 25, 2014

Press release from Sue Bond:

A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany
The Courtauld Gallery, London, 30 January — 27 April 2014
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 30 May — 7 September 2014

Curated by Rachel Sloan


John Robert Cozens, A Ruined Fort near Salerno, ca. 1782
watercolour on paper (The Courtauld Gallery)

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Organised as a collaboration between The Courtauld Gallery and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, this exhibition explores aspects of Romantic landscape drawing in Britain and Germany from its origins in the 1760s to its final flowering in the 1840s. Bringing together twenty-six major drawings, watercolours and oil sketches from both collections by artists such as J.M.W. Turner, Samuel Palmer, Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Philipp Fohr, and Karl Friedrich Lessing, it draws upon the complementary strengths of both collections: the Morgan’s exceptional group of German drawings and The Courtauld Gallery’s wide-ranging holdings of British works. A Dialogue with Nature offers the opportunity to consider points of commonality as well as divergence between two distinctive schools. Together, these drawings exemplify Friedrich’s understanding of Romantic landscape draughtsmanship as ‘a dialogue with Nature’.

9781907372667_p0_v2_s260x420Friedrich claimed that ‘the artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself’. His words encapsulate two central elements of the Romantic conception of landscape: close observation of the natural world and the importance of the imagination. The display opens with a selection of drawings made in the late 18th century. The legacy of Claude Lorrain’s ideal vision is visible in both Jakob Philipp Hackert’s magisterial view of ruins at Tivoli, near Rome, and in Thomas Gainsborough’s more informal rendering of a rustic cottage among rolling hills, while cloud and tree studies by John Constable and Johann Georg von Dillis demonstrate the importance of drawing from life and the observation of natural phenomena. This newfound emphasis on drawing out of doors extended to amateur artists as well, exemplified by two remarkable sketchbooks by dilettante draughtsmen, the composer Felix Mendelssohn and the British naval officer Robert Streatfeild.

The important visionary strand of Romanticism is brought to the fore in a group of works centred on Friedrich’s Moonlit Landscape and The Jakobikirche as a Ruin and Samuel Palmer’s Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park. These are exemplary of their creators’ intensely spiritual vision of nature as well as their strikingly different techniques, Friedrich’s painstakingly fine detail contrasting with the dynamic freedom of Palmer’s penwork.

The final grouping shows Romantic landscapes at their most expansive and painterly, featuring Turner’s St Goarshausen and Katz Castle, one of fifty watercolours inspired by his first visit to Germany in 1817 and his highly atmospheric late rendering of a full moon over Lake Lucerne, as well as Friedrich’s subtle wash drawing of a coastal meadow on the remote Baltic island of Rügen. The exhibition closes with three small-scale drawings revealing a more introspective and intimate facet of the Romantic approach to landscape: Theodor Rehbenitz’s fantastical medievalising scene, Palmer’s meditative Haunted Stream and, lastly, Turner’s Cologne made as an illustration for The Works of Lord Byron (1833), which underscores important links between literature and the visual arts in the ongoing exchange of ideas between Britain and Germany.

A Dialogue with Nature is the first exhibition to be organised jointly by The Courtauld’s IMAF Centre for Drawings and The Morgan Library & Museum’s Drawings Institute. The accompanying publication will feature an essay by Matthew Hargraves (Yale Center for British Art and Morgan-Courtauld Fellow) and individual catalogue entries for each work by Rachel Sloan (The Courtauld Gallery).

From Athena Books/Paul Holberton:

Matthew Hargraves and Rachel Sloan, A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014), 84 pages, ISBN: 978-1907372667, $25.

Alexander Sturgis Appointed Director of the Ashmolean

Posted in museums by Editor on January 25, 2014

From the press release (January 2014) . . .

ash-2The University of Oxford is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Alexander Sturgis as the new Director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. He will take up the appoint- ment on 1 October 2014, succeeding Professor Christopher Brown CBE, who has been the Museum’s Director since 1998.

Dr Sturgis has had a distinguished career as the Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath, since 2005 and previously held various posts over 15 years at the National Gallery, London, including Exhibitions and Programmes Curator from 1999 to 2005.

Welcoming the appointment of Dr Sturgis, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: “We are delighted that Dr Sturgis has agreed to come to Oxford to lead the Ashmolean. The Museum has undergone a substantial transformation in recent years under the outstanding leadership of Christopher Brown. I am fully confident that Dr Sturgis will take forward with equal distinction the next stage of the Ashmolean’s development.”

Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Services and University Collections), said: “I am looking forward very much to working with Dr Sturgis as he develops a strategy for the Ashmolean that continues its exceptional trajectory and maximises the contribution of its outstanding collections, both to the teaching and research of the University and to the Museum’s exciting range of activities involving the general public.”

Mr Bernard Taylor, Chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum, said: “I am so pleased that Xa Sturgis has decided to come to the Ashmolean. His great success at the Holburne Museum and his previous time at the National Gallery, working closely with Neil McGregor, prepares him well for leadership of this great museum. His past work in the use of collections in education, in arranging successful exhibitions, and in raising visitor numbers six-fold at the Holburne gives him the experience base to build upon the considerable success the Ashmolean has enjoyed in recent times.”

Responding to his appointment, Dr Sturgis said: “I am thrilled to be appointed the next Director of the Ashmolean. It is a huge honour to be given the chance to lead one of the country’s great museums, however hard it will be to leave the Holburne after eight exceptionally happy and eventful years. I look forward to working with the Ashmolean team and Oxford University to build on all that has been achieved at the Museum in recent years.”

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Sturgis’s bio from the Holburne Museum:

Alexander Sturgis studied Modern History at Oxford (1982–85) before completing a PhD in Art History at the Courtauld Institute, London (1985–90).

He joined the National Gallery, London in 1991 where he spent 14 years first as Education Officer (1991–99) and then as Exhibitions and Programmes Curator (1999–2005). During this time he also served as the Director’s Curatorial Assistant helping to set up the Regional Museums Task Force. His exhibition credits at the National Gallery include Seeing Salvation (2000), Telling Time (2000), Bill Viola: The Passions (2003), and Rebels and Martyrs: The Artist in the Nineteenth Century (2006). His list of publications includes Faces (1999) Telling Time (2000) Understanding Paintings: Themes in Art Explored and Explained (2000), and Rebels and Martyrs: The Artist in the Nineteenth Century (2006). He was appointed Director of the Holburne Museum in 2005.

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