Exhibition | Sketching among the Ruins

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 28, 2023

Landscape of a circular wall surrounding arched ruins with mountains and blue sky in background and lone figure in foreground.

Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont, The Roman Theater, Taormina, 1825, oil on paper, mounted on board, 42 × 58 cm
(New York: Thaw Collection, jointly owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library & Museum, 2009.400:102)

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Now on view at The Morgan:

Sketching among the Ruins
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 25 October 2022 — 12 November 2023

By the mid-eighteenth century, the practice of sketching outdoors with oil paint had become popular among landscape artists. Furthermore, a study trip through Europe, often centered on a stay in Italy, had evolved as a customary part of artists’ training. Italy’s cities and countryside, filled with remnants of ancient monuments, offered artists stimulating subject matter, and the portability of oil sketching facilitated the firsthand study of ruins and their surroundings. While some painters carefully recorded these structures’ textures and colors, as well as how light fell upon them, others invented scenes by reimagining remains of the past or by envisioning the future deterioration of the present. Whether real or fictional, ruins and their surrounding landscape offered poignant juxtapositions—at once testimonies to the majesty of human achievement and to the inevitable triumph of time over our endeavors.

Sketching among the Ruins highlights oil sketches given jointly to the Morgan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Eugene V. Thaw, a trustee of both institutions.

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Thaw died in January of 2018 at the age 90. For an overview of his wide-ranging career as a dealer and collector, see Steven M. L. Aronson, “Celebrating Eugene Thaw’s Legacy,” Architectural Digest Pro (25 November 2018).

Exhibition | In and around Piranesi’s Rome

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 28, 2023

Several figures wading in a stream that flows under the arch of a cavernous space with brown and blue wash.

Charles-Louis Clérisseau, Travelers in the Interior of the ‘Temple of Mercury’ at Baiae, ca. 1761, opaque watercolor, 27 × 47 cm
(NY: The Morgan Library & Museum, 1985.62)

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Now on view at The Morgan:

In and around Piranesi’s Rome: Eighteenth-Century Views of Italy
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 10 January — 4 June 2023

By the mid-eighteenth century, the Grand Tour, a study trip through Europe with a period of residence in Italy, had become a fixture in the education of European aristocrats and the training of artists. These young travelers were eager to return home with reminders of their experience, which contributed to a demand for paintings, prints, and drawings of Italian views, or vedute. Rome and the vestiges of its ancient past were especially popular subjects, as is also reflected in the nearby display of oil sketches. The burgeoning genre spawned specialized artists (vedusti), particularly at the French Academy in Rome, a center of creative exchange for not only academy members but also other artists active across the city.

Artists took various approaches to vedute. Some adopted a documentary route, recording archeological and architectural sites, occasionally enlivened with figures. Others altered elements of an existing view or invented an entirely fictive scene, known as a capriccio. In both real and imagined modes, a powerful influence and creative force was the Italian Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), who for some time maintained a workshop across the street from the French Academy and interacted with many of its artists.

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