Exhibition | Monochrome: Painting in Black and White

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 9, 2017

Press release (August 2017) from The National Gallery:

Monochrome: Painting in Black and White
The National Gallery, London, 30 October 2017 – 18 February 2018
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 21 March — 15 July 2018

Curated by Lelia Packer and Jennifer Sliwka

At the National Gallery this autumn, journey through a world of shadow and light. With more than fifty painted objects created over 700 years, Monochrome: Painting in Black and White is a radical new look at what happens when artists cast aside the colour spectrum and focus on the visual power of black, white, and everything in between.

Paintings by Old Masters such as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres appear alongside works by some of the most exciting contemporary artists working today including Gerhard Richter, Chuck Close, and Bridget Riley. Olafur Eliasson‘s immersive light installation Room for One Colour (1997) brings a suitably mind-altering coda to the exhibition. With major loans from around the world and works from the National Gallery’s Collection, Monochrome reveals fresh insights into the use of colour as a choice rather than a necessity.

As Lelia Packer and Jennifer Sliwka, curators of Monochrome: Painting in Black and White, explain: “Painters reduce their colour palette for many reasons but mainly as a way of focusing the viewer’s attention on a particular subject, concept, or technique. It can be very freeing—without the complexities of working in colour, you can experiment with form, texture, mark making, and symbolic meaning.”

Monochrome: Painting in Black and White guides visitors through seven rooms, each addressing a different aspect of painting in black, white and grey, also known as grisaille.

Sacred Subjects

The earliest surviving works of Western art made in grisaille were created in the Middle Ages for devotional purposes, to eliminate distractions and focus the mind. As colour pervades daily life, black and white can signal a shift to an otherworldly or spiritual context. For some, colour was the forbidden fruit and prohibited by religious orders practising a form of aesthetic asceticism. Grisaille stained glass, for example, was created by Cistercian monks in the 12th century as an alternative to vibrant church windows, with its translucent greyish panels sometimes painted with images in black and yellow. Light and elegant in appearance, grisaille glass such as this window panel made for the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denis, Paris (1320–24, Victoria and Albert Museum, London) gained popularity outside the order and eventually became de rigueur in many French churches.

Studies in Light and Shadow

From the 15th century onward artists made painted studies in black and white to work through challenges posed by their subjects and compositions. Eliminating colour allows artists to concentrate on the way light and shadow fall across the surface of a figure, object or scene before committing to a full-colour canvas. The beautiful Drapery Study (possibly study for Saint Matthew and an Angel), (about 1477, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio is a template work which an artist could reuse in multiple finished colour paintings. This particular motif for example reappeared in a frescoed vault in San Gimignano, Italy.

Independent Paintings in Grisaille

Increasingly, paintings in grisaille were made as independent works of art, complete unto themselves. This section explores the inspiration and desire for such paintings, prized for their demonstration of artistic skill, for the insights they provide into the artist’s craft, and for their profound consideration of a particular subject.

Jan van Eyck’s Saint Barbara (1437, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp) is the earliest known example of a monochrome work on panel, drawn in metalpoint, India ink, and oil on a prepared ground. Although there has been ongoing debate as to whether a master colourist such as van Eyck intended Saint Barbara as a sketch in preparation for a painting in colour or a as a finished drawing, the panel was admired and collected as early as the 16th century suggesting that a taste for independent monochrome pictures existed from an early date.

Jacob de Wit, Jupiter and Ganymede, 1739 (Hull: Ferens Art Gallery).

Monochrome Painting and Sculpture

For centuries artists have challenged themselves to mimic the appearance of stone sculpture in painting. In Northern Europe, a taste for illusionistic decorative elements—such as decorative wall painting and sculpted stucco—may have helped give rise to stunning works of trompe l’oeil painted on panel or canvas. Jacob de Wit excelled at this practice and his Jupiter and Ganymede (1739, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull) could easily be mistaken for a three-dimensional wall relief.

Monochrome Painting and Printmaking

Beginning in the 16th century, painters developed ingenious ways to compete with new developments in printmaking. An exceptionally rare grisaille work by Hendrik Goltzius, Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze (1606, the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) for example, dazzled viewers who could not fathom how it was made, as it very much looks like a print but was drawn by hand on prepared canvas.

Black-and-White Painting in the Age of Photography and Film

Similarly, the invention of photography in 1839, and that of film much later, prompted painters to imitate the effects of these media, in order to respond to, or compete with their particular qualities. Gerhard Richter employed a press photograph of a prostitute who had been brutally murdered as the foundation of his painting Helga Matura with Her Fiancé (1966, Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf). The grey palette—for Richter, “the ideal colour for indifference”—removes any sentimentality about Helga’s murder. By deliberately blurring the photograph, the artist makes the viewer aware that this is an altered image, contrasting with the crispness and apparent objectivity of the original.

Étienne Moulinneuf, after Jean-Siméon Chardin, Back from the Market (La Pourvoyeuse), ca. 1770, oil on canvas, 46 × 38 cm (Los Angeles: LACMA).


Abstract and installation artists have often been drawn to black and white. When artists have ready access to every possible hue, the absence of colour can be all the more shocking or thought-provoking. In 1915, Kiev-born artist Kazimir Malevich painted the first version of his revolutionary work, Black Square (in the exhibition is the 1929 version from the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)—an eponymous black square floating within a white painted frame—and declared it to be the beginning of a new kind of non-representational art. Works by Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, and Cy Twombly all exemplify the use of minimal colour for maximum impact.

Artists intrigued by colour theory and the psychological effects of colour (or its absence) manipulate light, space, and hue to trigger a particular response from the viewer. In this way, Olafur Eliasson brings the exhibition to a close with his large-scale, immersive light installation, Room for One Colour (1997). In a room illuminated with sodium yellow monofrequency lamps, all other light frequencies are suppressed and visitors are transported to a monochrome world.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says: “Artists choose to use black and white for aesthetic, emotional, and sometimes even for moral reasons. The historical continuity and diversity of monochrome from the Middle Ages to today demonstrate how crucial a theme it is in Western art.”

Exhibition organised by The National Gallery in collaboration with Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf.

Lelia Packer and Jennifer Sliwka, Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (London: The National Gallery, 2017), 240 pages, ISBN: 978 18570 96132 (hardback), £35 / ISBN: 978 18570 96132 (paperback), £20.

Lelia Packer is Acting Curator of Paintings, Watercolours, Miniatures, and Manuscripts (excluding France) at the Wallace Collection, London. She was formerly McCrindle Curatorial Assistant at The National Gallery.

Jennifer Sliwka is Deputy Director of the Visual Commentary on Scripture Project and Senior Research Fellow, King’s College London. She was formerly Ahmanson Curator of Art and Religion at The National Gallery.







Call for Essays | Dix-huitième Siècle No 51: La Couleur des Lumières

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 9, 2017

From H-ArtHist:

Dix-huitième Siècle No 51: La Couleur des Lumières
Edited by Aurélia Gaillard and Catherine Lanoë

Proposals due by 30 November 2017; with final articles due by June 2018

Le dossier thématique de la revue DHS n° 51 sera consacré au thème de la « couleur des Lumières » et l’envisage comme suit : d’abord, qu’en est-il de la place de la couleur au 18e siècle ? Peut-on parler de ce siècle comme d’un univers coloré ? Et si oui, quelle en serait la couleur ou quelles en seraient les couleurs ? N’y aurait-il pas alors un siècle clivé en deux, l’un coloré (couleur de rose, couleur du rococo), l’autre blanc hygiénique (traités de blanchiment, blancheur des marbres classiques) ? Enfin, qu’en est-il de la couleur dans les textes littéraires ? À quel moment, dans quels textes, dans quels genres, chez quels auteurs passe-t-on de l’évocation abstraite des somptueux « ornements » et subtiles « grâces » à des descriptions colorées ? Y a-t-il par exemple des auteurs, des genres coloristes et d’autres non ? Et comment, pour des textes, des mots, penser une poétique de la couleur qui ne soit pas une rhétorique des images ?

Ainsi, si la subjectivité de l’être percevant conçu comme homme sensible à l’âge des Lumières a été une question majeure des recherches depuis ces dernières décennies, la valorisation corollaire des sensations chromatiques a été un peu délaissée. Il s’agit donc de mettre en évidence l’importance de la couleur dans le monde des Lumières : théories, débats, inventions, expériences, synesthésies, discours, représentations, poétique.

Les contributions pourront alors aborder les axes suivants relevant principalement de 4 paradigmes :
1) Un paradigme scientifique, la science de la couleur : de Newton (Opticks, 1704) à Goethe (Traité des couleurs, 1808).
2) Un paradigme médical et philosophique, sensualisme, sens et sensations colorés.
3) Un paradigme historique et anthropologique :
• Histoire matérielle de la couleur et des teintures : art de la peinture, de l’émail, du verre, de la porcelaine, des tissus, teintures, chimie, manuels d’art tinctorial, de blanchiment etc.
• « Les couleurs du corps » (Michel Delon dans Angelica Gooden dir., The Eighteenth-Century Body, Peter Lang, 2002) : la « couleur de chair », incarnat, rougeurs/blancheurs d’où surgit tout à coup par exemple le bleu des veines etc.
• La cosmétique, le fard rouge et le blanc de céruse (C. Lanoë, « La céruse dans la fabrication des cosmétiques… », Techniques et Culture, n°38, 2002 ; « le rouge des Lumières… », Sociétés et représentations, n°25, 2008), les encres bleues (Solange Simon-Mazoyer, « Le conflit entre les excès de la mode et de la santé au XVIIIe siècle : ‘l’habillage’ du visage », dans V. Barras et M. Louis-Courvoisier dir., La médecine des Lumières, Georg Éd., 2001)
4) Un paradigme esthétique, un visuel coloré : à la suite de la Querelle du Coloris (de Piles), on assiste à une apologie de la couleur, du stuc, de l’illusion (J. Lichtenstein, La couleur éloquente, Flammarion, 1989). Le coloriste Charles La Fosse devient recteur de l’Académie royale de Peinture et Sculpture en 1702. Diderot développe ses « Petites idées sur la couleur » (Essais sur la peinture, 1765). Mais le 18e siècle est aussi celui de l’invention de la couleur « rose », qui reste nommée pendant tout le siècle par le nom de la fleur (couleur de rose).

Pour recevoir l’appel à contribution complet, contacter Aurélia Gaillard. Les propositions de contributions uniquement en français sont à adresser simultanément à Aurélia Gaillard (aurelia.gaillard@gmail.com) et Catherine Lanoë (catherine_lanoe@hotmail.com) sous forme d’un titre et d’un résumé d’une quinzaine de lignes avant le 30 novembre 2017. Les articles définitifs seront à rendre pour juin 2018.

Call for Papers | Interior Design and Style Cohabitation

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 9, 2017

From H-ArtHist:

Interior Design and Style Cohabitation from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century
Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris, 19 March 2018

Proposals due by 6 November 2017

This study day will question the adaptation in domestic spaces, as a common and pragmatic custom, of objects that originally were not destined to meet, playing despite or with their differences. This theme was recently addressed by the Galerie des Gobelins with the exhibition À table avec le mobilier national, where eighteenth-century paintings, paperboards, and wall hangings from the royal manufacture oversaw fifty years of furniture creation by the Atelier de Recherche et de Création (1964–2014).

While it is common in the field of art history to encounter examples of interiors where the decorative harmony was conceived according to the ideal of a ‘total work of art’, the opposite will be examined. The assortment in a common space of objects from different periods and the ensuing reflections brought up by these unexpected, sometimes surprising, convergences will be our object of interest. When, for example, was it intended for eighteenth-0century furniture to be associated and fit in with an Impressionist painting? Was this type of seemingly insignificant practice theorized ahead of time or retrospectively?

This subject is linked to the history of taste. While a few publications devoted to collectors’ arrangements of domestic spaces have pointed out some individuals who wished to harmonize old furniture to a modern art collection, on the contrary, examples of modern furniture confronted with old works of art could be discussed during this study day.

Far from the historically based mechanism, already well studied for the nineteenth century for example (Antiquity, neo-gothic or neo-Renaissance decor and furniture), the debate here will focus on the practical necessity for a collector, dealer, or individual to design an interior with modern paintings and old furniture—or inversely—that is elements apparently disparate by their age, forms, and uses.

This thematic raises questions relating to the flexibility of fine arts and decorative arts and confronts the values and/or practices associated with the work of art, considered as a decorative element, as well as a utilitarian object of art, equally appreciated for its plastic qualities.

While composing an interior can extend to the private space, the artist’s studio, or demonstrations of domestic spaces in art galleries and department stores, the study can even include how these spaces were spread to the public by images. We will aim to define what type of media participated in this transmission. The literature and the press play for example a significant role in the circulation of these interior views and the values to which they are linked.

The study day suggests—but is not limited to—several topics:
• Paintings’ or art objects’ adaptability, flexibility or modular nature
• Migration or confusion of values and contemplative behaviors and practices when faced with paintings and furniture
• Authorship and collectors’ and decorators’ creative and recreational motivations

Proposals that extend their analysis to other types of objects and collections, particularly to sculpture, will also be reviewed with the greatest interest. Please submit an individual proposal of no more than 500 words and a CV to barbara.jouves@univ-paris1.fr and hadrien.viraben@gmail.com by 30 November 2017.

Organization: Claire Hendren (Ph.D. candidate, Université Paris-Nanterre), Barbara Jouves (Ph.D. candidate, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), and Hadrien Viraben (Ph.D. candidate, Université de Rouen and Université Paris-Nanterre)

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