Enfilade

Exhibition | Visions and Nightmares

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 28, 2014

From the exhibition press release:

Visions and Nightmares: Four Centuries of Spanish Drawings
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 17 January — 11 May 2014

Curated by Edward Payne

VisionsNightmares_int_04

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

It was traditionally assumed that Spanish artists rarely drew, but recent research has demonstrated that drawing was, in fact, central to artistic practice in Spain. Visions and Nightmares: Four Centuries of Spanish Drawings explores the shifting roles and attitudes toward the art of drawing in Spain, as well as the impact of the Catholic Church and the nightmare of the Inquisition on Spanish artists and their work. It is the first exhibition of Spanish drawings ever to be held at the Morgan Library & Museum, whose holdings in this area are relatively small but strong.

On view in the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery through May 11, the exhibition features more than twenty drawings spanning the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Works by well-known artists such as José de Ribera, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and Francisco Goya are presented alongside sheets by equally talented but less familiar artists, including Vicente Carducho, Alonso Cano, and Eugenio Lucas. Complementing the drawings is a display of contemporary Spanish letters and volumes, notably a lavish 1780 edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

“With one of the world’s most important collections of master drawings, the Morgan is committed to developing exhibitions that explore important subjects that may be less familiar or have been overlooked,” said William M. Griswold, Director. “The practice of drawing in Spain is relatively unexplored, by comparison to that in Italy or France, but the extraordinary works in this show demonstrate an artistry and themes unique to their country of origin.”

Among the drawings in the exhibition is one of many sheets preparatory for a series of fifty-six paintings that Vicente Carducho designed for the Charterhouse of El Paular. In the foreground, Father Andrés is tortured using a device called la garrucha; the background reveals his subsequent murder by a mob. Squared for transfer to the oil sketch that preceded the final painting, the drawing bears an inscription by the patron indicating that the suspended figure should be larger and more centrally placed. Carducho incorporated this correction into the finished canvas.

José de Ribera was drawn to violent subjects—notably, the flaying of St. Bartholomew and his pagan counterpart, Marsyas, a satyr who challenged Apollo to a musical contest. As punishment for losing the competition and for his sin of pride, Marsyas was tied to a tree and skinned alive. This drawing depicts the bound satyr screaming, his skin still intact. In a variation on the theme, Ribera portrays Marsyas with human (rather than goat) legs, thus connecting this mythological subject to the artist’s numerous other drawings of bound figures.

On view are three drawings by Alonso Cano, including his masterpiece on paper: a monumental design for the altarpiece of the Chapel of San Diego de Alcalá. Composed of seventeen joined sheets, the work is highly finished, indicating that it was a presentation drawing, offering the patron different options to consider. King Philip IV became patron of the chapel in 1657; his coats of arms appear at the lower left and right of the drawing.

Renowned for his paintings of religious themes, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo made this preparatory drawing for one of his many versions of the Immaculate Conception. The loose, sketchy handling of this sheet is typical of the artist’s later style. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception—the belief that the Virgin was born free of original sin—was especially popular in seventeenth-century Spain. Here the abstract ideal is embodied by the figure of the Virgin standing on a crescent moon.

Visions and Nightmares includes four drawings by Francisco Goya. Toward the end of his life, the artist drew increasingly for his own pleasure, executing eight albums now lettered A through H and variously named. Pesadilla (Nightmare)—one of two drawings on view from the so-called Black Border Album—depicts a disheveled woman astride a flying bull, her eyes bulging as she screams in terror. Although the image of a woman and bull traditionally personified the European continent, Goya’s drawing seems to symbolize the turmoil in Spain following the Peninsular War.

Eugenio Lucas’s ominous drawing depicts Death reading from an oversized book supported by the back of a kneeling man who serves as a human lectern. Moody and macabre, this sheet recalls the threat of the Inquisition. Also on view is another sheet by Lucas, which depicts a figure shrouded in white, its arms extending toward the top of the page. The latter drawing may be seen as the pendant to Death Reading from a Human Lectern—the two works representing death and resurrection, respectively.

Visions and Nightmares also includes items from the Morgan’s collections of printed books, letters, and music manuscripts. One highlight is a deluxe edition of Don Quixote, commissioned by the Royal Spanish Academy and printed in Madrid in 1780. In addition to lavish engravings, the volume includes editorial revisions to the text, a biography of Cervantes, and the first map to chart Quixote’s itinerary. Also on view is a letter written by Goya to his lifelong friend Martín Zapater, in which he relates the exciting news that he was appointed painter to the Spanish king Charles III, the most prestigious position for an artist in Spain.

174695v_0001

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

P U B L I C  P R O G R A M S

Visions and Nightmares: Four Centuries of Spanish Drawings
Friday, February 7, 6:30 pm
An informal tour with exhibition curator Edward Payne, Moore Curatorial Fellow, Drawings and Prints. Free with museum admission.

Blancanieves (2012, 104 minutes) Director: Pablo Berger
Friday, February 28, 7 pm
“Snow White” is retold in 1920s Seville, with imagery inspired by Francisco Goya. Spain’s Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Film in 2013, starring Maribel Verdú and Daniel Giménez Carlos. In Spanish with English subtitles. Free with museum admission.

From Inquisition to Enlightenment: Drawing in Spain
Wednesday, March 5, 6:30 pm

Edward Payne, the Morgan’s Moore Curatorial Fellow, will lead this discussion on Spanish drawings with Jonathan Brown, the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, and scholar Lisa Banner. They will explore how new research has altered the perception of the role of drawing in Spain from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, a period that witnessed the horror of the Inquisition, the rise of the Catholic Church, and the intellectual curiosity of the Enlightenment. The exhibition Visions and Nightmares will be open at 5:30 pm for program attendees. Tickets: $15; $10 for members; and free for students with valid ID; 212-685-0008 x560; themorgan.org/programs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s