Enfilade

Exhibition | The Lure of Italy: Artists’ Views

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 12, 2017

Giovanni Battista Lusieri, A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone towards Capo di Posilippo, 1791; watercolor, gouache, graphite, and pen and ink on six sheets of paper; unframed: 102 × 272 cm  (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.GC.281).

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Press release (20 April 2017) for the exhibition now on view at The Getty:

The Lure of Italy: Artists’ Views
The Getty Center, Los Angeles, 9 May — 30 July 2017

Curated by Julian Brooks with Annie Correll

For centuries, Italy has fascinated travelers and artists alike. From the crumbling ruins of ancient Rome to the crystal-clear light of Venice, artists have found inspiration not only in the cities but also in the countryside and in Italy’s rich history and culture. The Lure of Italy: Artists’ Views explores the numerous ways Italy’s topography, history, and culture have motivated artists to create works of extraordinary beauty and resonance. The exhibition, selected from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection of drawings and watercolors, includes several important recent acquisitions, including works by Francesco Guardi and Richard Parkes Bonington.

Claude-Joseph Vernet, The Entrance to the Grotto at Posillipo, ca. 1750; pen and brown ink with brown and gray wash over black chalk, 34 × 49 cm (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 97.GG.53).

“For many, Italy represented—and still represents today—a stunningly lush treasure of scenic wonder, with picturesque ancient sculptures, historic buildings, and dramatic landscapes,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This exhibition bears witness to the long-standing love affair that artists have had with the country of Italy.”

Italy—a collection of city-states until unification in the 1800s—has captured the imagination of artists for centuries, yet interest in the country peaked in the 1700s, when the region became a prime destination for wealthy travelers embarking on the Grand Tour from England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and beyond. Artists journeying with them or working for them used pencil, ink, and watercolor to capture celebrated views and preserve vivid memories, creating works that encapsulate the essence and spirit of Italy.

Italian natives such as Guardi, Canaletto, and Giovanni Battista Lusieri responded to the tourist demand for souvenirs by crafting their own masterpieces. Guardi’s A Regatta on the Grand Canal (about 1778), a recent acquisition for the Getty, conveys with freshness and spontaneity the lively atmosphere of the annual gondola race (regatta) in Venice. The finish line is at left and spectators crowd the balconies of the nearby Palazzo Balbi, while the water bustles with decorated gondolas.

Further south, the Bay of Naples was another favorite destination of Grand Tourists. Lusieri’s huge, nearly nine-foot wide panorama, A View of the Bay of Naples (about 1791) is meticulously executed in tiny detail with watercolor. It was painted over a period of two years from the residence of Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to the court of Naples, who commissioned it for his London home. The view looks towards the Capo di Posillipo and the so-called grotto there, a feat of ancient-Roman engineering.

Other highlights include sketches of enchanting sites with plunging perspectives through the rich Italian countryside, capriccio scenes caught between fantasy and reality, studies of ancient ruins, Roman landmarks and lauded works of art, and views of the most picturesque and awe-inspiring sights that Italy has to offer.

During his only visit to Venice, two years prior to his death at age 25 from tuberculosis, Richard Parkes Bonington made numerous pencil sketches and a handful of oil and watercolor studies of the city. The jewel-like Riva degli Schiavoni, from near San Biagio, Venice (1826) emphasizes his renowned ability to capture the effects of calm water and dramatic cloud formations in watercolor. This match of subject and media helped to make the magical atmosphere of the city the real subject of his work. “The extraordinary character of Italian cityscapes and landscapes pushed artists to the limits of their potential,” says Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “To render them effectively, the choices of media and technique became crucial.”

The Lure of Italy: Artists’ Views is curated by Brooks, with the assistance of Annie Correll, graduate intern in the Department of Drawings. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe (9 May — 30 July 2017) on view in the Special Exhibitions Pavilion at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The exhibition checklist is available as a PDF file here»

S E L E L E C T E D  P R O G R A M M I N G

Peter Björn Kerber, Venice vs. Rome: A Capital Contest
Saturday, May 13, 3:00pm
Pitting gilded gondolas against sumptuous coaches, Venice and Rome sought to surpass each other in staging the eighteenth century’s most spectacular festivals and celebrations. Peter Bjorn Kerber, curator of the exhibition Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe, explores the pictures Canaletto, Panini, and other leading painters produced to record these dazzling occasions.

Julian Brooks, The Bumpy Road to Beautiful Italy
Sunday, June 4, 3:00pm
With one eye on the practicalities and perils of travel in Italy in past centuries, Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the Getty, discusses some of the works of art made by visitors to the country, and how they responded to—and fueled—the lure of Italy.

From The Getty Shop:

Julian Brooks, The Lure of Italy: Artists’ Views (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2017), 96 pages, ISBN: 978  160606  5198, $20.

For centuries Italy has fascinated travelers and artists. From the crumbling ruins of ancient Rome to the crystal-clear light of Venice, artists have found inspiration not only in the cities but also in the countryside and in the deep history and culture. From as early as the 1500s, artists visiting from France, England, the Netherlands, and Germany drew sketches to preserve vivid memories, often creating work of extraordinary atmosphere and beauty in the process. A growing number of tourists in the subsequent centuries fueled a further demand for souvenir views, spurring local artists to craft their own masterpieces.
This lovely book is a narrated assemblage of some of these beautiful views, which transport the reader effortlessly to Italy, rekindling memories, setting intentions, or provoking curiosity. The text provides new insights into the topographical renditions of Italian scenes over the centuries, while compelling illustrations of works from the Getty collection by artists such as Richard Parkes Bonington, J. M. W. Turner, Claude Lorrain, Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Canaletto, and many more capture the essence and spirit of Italy.

Julian Brooks is senior curator and head of the Department of Drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where he has organized and co-organized numerous exhibitions. Among his many publications are Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action (Getty Publications, 2015) and Master Drawings Close-Up (Getty Publications, 2010).

 

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