Enfilade

Exhibition | The Recovery of Antiquity

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 23, 2016

Press release for the exhibition closing this weekend at the MMFA:

The Recovery of Antiquity: From the Renaissance to Neoclassicism in France and Italy
Le retour à l’antique: de la Renaissance au néoclassicisme, en France et en Italie
Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 12 January — 26 June 2016

Jean‑Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803), Classical Ruins, gouache on paper mounted on cardboard. 61.1 × 44.6 cm (MMFA, Lady Davis Bequest)

Jean‑Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803), Classical Ruins, gouache on paper mounted on cardboard. 61.1 × 44.6 cm (MMFA, Lady Davis Bequest)

In connection with the exhibition Pompeii (on view until September 5), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents The Recovery of Antiquity, revealing the keen interest of artists from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century for antiquities. This selection of graphic works from the Museum’s collection features over fifty prints and drawings, including several new acquisitions. It features works by French masters like François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, and Anne-Louis Girodet, as well as several Italian artists. Some of these works are being exhibited for the first time.

The discoveries in Rome at the turn of the sixteenth century of the Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoön—the latter praised as a masterpiece by Pliny the Elder in the first century—occurred precisely when that city was emerging from its medieval conditions and becoming once again the international centre of art, culture, and political influence in Europe, with artists like Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo transforming and re-envisioning Rome at the forefront of a Christian humanism deeply rooted in its Imperial Roman artistic heritage. The rediscovery at this same period of Nero’s great villa at the heart of the city, the Domus Aurea, with some of its frescoed interior spaces intact, seemed to confirm this mission.

Charles Michel-Ange Challe (1718–1778), Interior View of an Ancient Temple with the Figure of a Goddess, ca. 1742–49 (MMFA, gift of Dr. Sean B. Murphy)

Charles Michel-Ange Challe (1718–1778), Interior View of an Ancient Temple with the Figure of a Goddess, ca. 1742–49 (MMFA, gift of Dr. Sean B. Murphy)

A distinct aesthetic appreciation of Greek art dates back to the latter fifteenth century, when the Venetian Empire encompassed the Greek peninsula and islands, as well as Crete and Cyprus. Collectors, especially Venetians, prized the more generalized and less veristic character of classical and Hellenistic Greek art. It reached an apogee in the mid-eighteenth century in Rome, when Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the celebrated aesthete and historian in Rome, elevated the artistic accomplishments of the Greeks above those of the Romans, creating animated controversy among other aestheticians and the artistic community. In counterpoint, Piranesi’s prints recorded in dramatic and inspiring terms the legacy of Roman Antiquity. It was precisely at this same moment, in 1748, that excavations were revealing to an enthralled public the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried in the cataclysm of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Two generations later, influenced by these archaeological discoveries, Napoleon adopted Roman imperial emblemata and styles to advance his own political and imperial ambitions.

From the engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi after designs by Raphael to the spectacular eighteenth-century etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi exalting the still-visible remains of ancient Rome to the early nineteenth-century illustrations after designs by Anne- Louis Girodet for works written by ancient authors, we can see the constant reinterpretation and changing visions of different generations regarding their own interface with Antiquity.

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Exhibition | Bountiful Invention: Drawings by Oppenord and Meissonnier

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 23, 2016

Press release (27 May 2016) for the exhibition now on view at Waddesdon:

Bountiful Invention: Drawings by Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672–1742) )
and Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (1695–1750)

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, 8 June — 23 October 2016

Curated by Juliet Carey

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Gilles-Marie Oppenord, Design for a headpiece or title-page, with the Arms of the Marquis de Torcy, ca. 1725 (Waddesdon: Rothschild Collection / National Trust; photo: Mike Fear)

An exhibition exploring the work of two of the most innovative draughtsmen and designers of the 18th century, including spectacular presentation sheets, as well as drawings for workshop use; designs for interiors, fountains and grottoes, both real and fantastical; and an important group of designs for churches and ritual objects.

Born during the reign of Louis XIV, at a time of unprecedented interest in drawing and extraordinary artistic innovation, Oppenord and Meissonnier are two of the greatest names associated the development of the distinctively French style that reached its peak in the reign of Louis XV, now known as Rococo.

This exhibition of 45 drawings, mostly from Waddesdon’s own collections acquired in Paris in the 19th century by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845–34), is complemented by two loans: a spectacular Meissonnier design for a projected church for the Order of the Holy Ghost from the V&A and a red chalk Oppenord from the Courtauld Gallery. The majority of these drawings have never previously been shown.

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Gilles-Marie Oppenord, Design for a Garden Fountain, ca. 1720–30; black ink on paper; 439 x 291mm (Waddesdon: Rothschild Collection / National Trust; photo: Mike Fear)

The drawings on display include experimental studies and highly finished presentation sheets, drawings for workshop use, others for student instruction, and copies made as part of the process of translating a design into print. There are designs for personal accessories such as gold boxes, furniture and interiors, for real and fantastical palaces, fountains and grottoes as well as an important group of ecclesiastical works. Many would go on to be realised in a variety of materials by builders, masons, carpenters, plasterers, goldsmiths, instrument makers, and other craftsmen; others exist only on paper. This exhibition demonstrates the breadth and variety of Oppenord’s and Meissonnier’s creativity and skill, both valued by collectors and connoisseurs even during the artists’ lifetimes. Prints of their drawings spread their ideas throughout Europe and further afield and were copied by other artists and designers long after their designs went out of fashion in France.

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New Book | Condition: The Ageing of Art

Posted in books by Editor on June 23, 2016

From Paul Holberton:

Paul Taylor, Condition: The Ageing of Art (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015), 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1907372797, £30 / $45.

51qJi3weHZLThe paintings we see today in museums, galleries, churches, and temples are often much altered by the centuries. Pictures can split, rot, be eaten by woodworm, warp, blister, crack, cup, flake, darken, blanch, discolour, become too translucent, and disappear under a centuries-old varnish; and they can also suffer from the efforts of their owners to rectify these situations: they might be transferred, relined, ironed, abraded or repainted.

Anyone considering a work of art needs to establish at the outset how much it has changed since it was first made. This act of understanding is far from easy. We need to develop a knowledge of the physical and chemical processes which have brought paintings to their current state, in the hope that we can imagine their reversal. And we have to look as much as we can at a wide variety of paintings, so we can learn to distinguish those in a worse or better state of preservation; we have to try to understand what it is about a picture that differentiates good and bad condition. Theories of art history have been built on works whose appearance is made up of little more than repaint and decay, and the beginner needs to be warned about the many pitfalls dug by time for the unwary. This book is meant both for that beginner and for the qualified practitioner who might have missed a step along the way.

While there are many books on conservation and restoration, there is nothing which focuses specifically on condition. The plan here is to provide a hands-on introductory text, which can be used as a first orientation in the study of condition, and can remain as a basic reference work when the reader’s studies have progressed further. It should appeal to anyone with an interest in art.

Far too complex for their own good, European ‘Old Master’ pictures—by the likes of Cranach the Elder, Raphael, Leonardo, Poussin, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Gainsborough, Turner, and Van Gogh—rely for their delicate effects on layers of fragile materials, all of which are subject to change and decay. No-one can enjoy them to the full without an understanding of how and what they may have survived, suffered, or lost in the journey through the years.

Paul Taylor is curator of the photographic collection at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and editor of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. He has written numerous articles and contributed to many books; he is the author of Dutch Flower Painting 1600–1720 (1995) and the editor of Pictorial Composition from Medieval to Modern Art (2000), The Iconography of Cylinder Seals (2006); Iconography without Texts (2008); and, most recently, Meditations on a Heritage: Papers on the Work and Legacy of Sir Ernst Gombrich (2014), also published by Paul Holberton publishing.

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