Enfilade

Exhibition | The King of Spain’s Grandchildren by Mengs

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 16, 2017

From the Uffizi Galleries:

The King of Spain’s Grandchildren: Anton Raphael Mengs at the Pitti Palace
Pitti Palace, Florence, 19 September 2017 — 7 January 2018

Curated by Matteo Ceriana and Steffi Roettgen

Anton Raphael Mengs, Double Portrait of the Archdukes Ferdinando (1769–1824) and Maria Anna (1770–1809) di Asburgo Lorena, 1770–71 (Florence: Uffizi Galleries).

Barely twenty days after the opening of an exhibition at the Uffizi devoted to the purchase of two preparatory paintings by Luca Giordano and Taddeo Mazzi, the Uffizi Galleries are now launching a second exhibition to present the prestigious acquisition of yet another important painting in 2016, by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779), portraying Ferdinando and Maria Anna, two of the children of Archduke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine and of his consort María Luisa de Borbón y Sajonia, dressed in contemporary costume and depicted inside the Pitti Palace.

Eike D. Schmid: “The task of a living museum is to safeguard works of art, to preserve memory and to transmit culture through exhibitions and research, but also to allow its collections to ‘breathe’ with targeted additions closely linked to the story of the city, of its hinterland and of the collection of which they are going to become a part. Acquisitions, especially if they are so subtly motivated, are a crucial part of a museum’s life, particularly if they are the product of research guaranteeing both their provenance and a fertile interaction with the museum’s existing heritage.”

When this unfinished painting appeared on the antique market, it was instantly clear that it had to enter the collections of the Gallerie degli Uffizi so that we could showcase it in the Pitti Palace, because even if Anton Raphael Mengs did not paint the picture entirely in the palace, he certainly conceived it there. The young princes lived in the Pitti Palace with their family, under the watchful eye of governesses and tutors, of course, but more especially under that of their own parents, while the Boboli Garden was their playground.

We were eager to celebrate the new acquisition, which would not have been possible without the generous cooperation of the Galleria Virgilio in Rome, with an exhibition illustrating the historical and artistic environment in which the portrait was painted.

Mengs was born in Bohemia but soon moved to the west, becoming an adoptive Italian and Spaniard. He sought permission from King Charles III of Spain to travel to Rome so that he could both work and pursue his study of Classical antiquities and of the great Renaissance artists, chiefly that of Raphael after whom he had been named. The Spanish King, who loved Italy and had once almost governed Tuscany himself (eventually becoming the King of Naples), granted Mengs permission to make the trip but only on condition that he send him portraits from Florence of his young grandchildren, the children of his daughter María Luisa de Borbón y Sajonia and of Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine. The pictures, loaned to the exhibition by the Museo del Prado where they normally hang, were painted while Mengs was in the Tuscan capital from April 1770 to January 1771. The portraits show us Pietro Leopoldo’s two extremely young children dressed in Spanish court attire with the marks of royalty (the Golden Fleece) in the traditional dress of the Infantes, as reported in the Gazzetta Toscana published on 29 September 1770. Once finished, but before they were packed up and shipped to the Spanish court, the portraits were shown to the Florentine public in the Pitti Palace, where they were much admired both for their sparkling technique and for their accurate rendering of the sitters’ features.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Double Portrait of the Archduke Ferdinand (1769–1824) and Maria Anna (1770–1809), 1770–71 (Madrid: Museo del Prado).

At the same time as Mengs was painting these portraits of the children for their grandfather, the Spanish King, however, he must also have produced the picture recently purchased by the Uffizi Galleries portraying Ferdinando and Anna Maria with a totally different approach and in a very different spirit. The two children portrayed here, looking happier than the children depicted in many of Mengs’s other works, are shown in contemporary clothing, and the choice of full, resonant hues such as the green and pink of their attire instantly reveals this new spirit. The prince is dressed in boy’s costume and the feather hat in his right hand is the kind of headgear one might have worn for strolling or hunting, thus introducing a touching note of daily intimacy into the picture—a far cry from the stiff, ceremonial approach evinced in the official portraits now in Madrid. The painting must have been very much to the liking of Pietro Leopoldo, a man of stern tastes, an enlightened sovereign, a reformer, in fact a thoroughly ‘modern’ (not to say bourgeois) monarch in both his public and his private life. We are drawn to the picture because we can not only see the lesson of Velázquez in it, but we actually get a foretaste of Goya, a great admirer of Mengs, and even of Manet.

Johan Zoffany, Francis I, Grand Duke of Tuscany of the House of Lorraine (1708–1765), 1775 (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum).

The official court portrait painter to Pietro Leopoldo, however, was another German—albeit a naturalised Englishman—called Johann Zoffany. The exhibition showcases the portrait that he painted of Pietro Leopoldo’s first-born son Francis, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany of the House of Lorraine, which was painted for Francis’s paternal grandmother, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and which has been loaned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Having doffed the dazzling turquoise attire of a Spanish Infante, we discover him in the courtyard of the Pitti Palace leaning against the majestic rustication, a small man fairly split between his government duties, his arms and his studies. This very fine portrait, which has returned to Florence for the first time since it was despatched to Vienna, depicts a boy who, while he may appear a little melancholic, is already very much aware of his imperial destiny.

The exhibition opens with portraits of the sitters’ grandparents, parents, and little cousins from Naples and Parma and closes with the self-portraits of the two painters from the Uffizi’s celebrated collection: Mengs’s famous, heroic self-portrait, bursting with emotion even though it is not yet Romantic, and Zoffany’s subtly ironic self-portrait in which he portrays himself with his small dog a painting that will come as a pleasant surprise to visitors after being specially restored for the exhibition.

Matteo Ceriana and Steffi Roettgen, I Nipoti del Re di Spagna: Anton Raphael Mengs a Palazzo Pitti (Livorno: Sillabe, 2017), 184 pages, ISBN: 978 888347 9687, $35.

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Exhibition | Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment

Posted in books, catalogues, conferences (to attend), exhibitions by Editor on October 15, 2017

While, as a rule, I don’t re-post announcements, because this one now includes important details that were previously omitted—additional information regarding the catalogue, venues, and the conferences—I’m glad to make an exception. I wish I could be there next weekend for what sure to be an amazing conference!  CAH

Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine, Woman Standing in a Garden, 1783, black chalk and brush with gray wash on off-white laid paper; Antoine Vestier, Allegory of the Arts, 1788, oil on canvas; and Louis-Léopold Boilly, Conversation in a Park, oil on canvas. All on loan from The Horvitz Collection.

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From the Harn Museum of Art:

Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from The Horvitz Collection
Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, 6 October — 31 December 2017
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 26 January — 8 April 2018
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, 13 May — 19 August 2018
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, dates TBA

Curated by Melissa Hyde and Mary D. Sheriff
Organized by Alvin Clark

Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection is primarily an exhibition of drawings but will include pastels, paintings, and sculptures selected from one of the world’s best private collections of French drawings. The exhibition will feature nearly 120 works by many of the most prominent artists of the eighteenth century, including Antoine Watteau, Nicolas Lancret, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, as well as lesser-known artists both male and female, such as Anne Vallayer-Coster, Gabrielle Capet, François-André Vincent, Philibert-Louis Debucourt. Ranging from spirited, improvisational sketches and figural studies, to highly finished drawings of exquisite beauty, the works included in the exhibition vary in terms of style, genre, and period.

Becoming a Woman will be organized into thematic sections that address some of the most important and defining questions of women’s lives in the eighteenth century. These include: how the stages of a woman’s life were measured; what cultural attitudes and conditions in France shaped how women were defined; what significant relations women formed with men; what social and familial rituals gave order to their lives; what pleasures they pursued; and what work they accomplished. The aim is to bring new insights to the questions of what it meant to be a woman in this period, by offering the first exhibition to focus specifically on representations of women of a broad range of ages and conditions.

The exhibition will offer fresh perspectives on a subject that still has direct relevance to our times but that has not been the focus of a significant exhibition for decades. Through its conceptual framework, thematic organization, and its emphasis on historical context, the exhibition will provide viewers opportunities to consider what issues pertaining to women’s lives seem to have changed or persisted through time and across space. Although the circumstances and the specifics have changed, many issues remain with us today and can still provoke contentious debates. Pay equity, reproductive rights, gender-discrimination, violence against women, work-family balance, the ‘plight’ of the alpha-female, and the devaluation of the stay-at-home mom, are but a few of the women’s issues that are still hotly contested in the media, in cultural production of all kinds, in politics, and in public and private life.

Becoming a Woman is curated by Melissa Hyde, Professor of Art History, University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, University of Florida, and the late Mary D. Sheriff, W.R. Kenan J. Distinguished Professor of Art History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the exhibition is organized by Alvin L. Clark, Jr, Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Research Curator, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg.

The catalogue is available from ArtBooks.com:

Melissa Hyde, Mary D. Sheriff, and Alvin Clark, Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from The Horvitz Collection (Boston: The Horvitz Collection, 2017), 208 pages, ISBN: 978 099126 2526, $39.

François Boucher, Young Travelers, black chalk on cream antique laid paper, framing line in black ink, laid down on a decorated mount, 295 × 188 mm; Jacques-Louis David, Andromache Mourning the Death of Hector, pen with black ink and brush with gray wash over traces of black chalk on cream antique laid paper, 293 × 248 mm; Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Chestnut Vendor, brush with gray and brown wash on cream antique laid paper, 385 × 460 mm. All works on loan from The Horvitz Collection.

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From the Lecture and Symposium Schedule:

Thinking Women: Art and Representation in the Eighteenth Century
A Symposium in Honor of Mary D. Sheriff

Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, 20–22 October 2017

• Keynote Address: “The Woman Artist and the Uncovering of the Social World,” Lynn Hunt, Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

Art, women, and society came together in surprising ways at the end of the eighteenth century. ‘Society’ only began to be conceptualized as an object for study at the end of the 1700s, in particular in reaction to the French Revolution. Art, especially engraving and painting, helped make society visible to itself. Women could join the art world but rarely as fully fledged members, and as a consequence they occupied a kind of in-between position that made them especially attuned to social relations. The life and work of Marie-Gabrielle Capet will be highlighted to show how the social world could be uncovered.

• “Fashion in Time: Visualizing Costume in the Eighteenth Century,” Susan Siegfried, Denise Riley Collegiate Professor of the History of Art and Women’s Studies, Department of Art History, University of Michigan

• “Beauty Is a Letter of Credit,” Nina Dubin, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Art History University of Illinois, Chicago

• “Chardin: Gender and Interiority,” Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

• “The Global Allure of the Porcelain Room,” Meredith Martin, Department of Art History, New York University

• “Pictured Together? Questions of Gender, Race, and Social Rank in the Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray,” Jennifer Germann, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Ithaca College

• “Becoming an Animal in the Age of Enlightenment,” Amy Freund, Associate Professor & Kleinheinz Family Endowed Chair in Art History, Southern Methodist University

• “Marguerite Lecomte’s Smile: Portrait of a Woman Engraver,” Mechthild Fend, Reader in the History of Art, Department of History of Art, University College London

• “Exceptional, but not Exceptions: Women Artists in the Age of Revolution,” Paris Spies Gans, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Princeton University

The final program, with times, is available here»

At the Ackland Art Museum at UNC, Chapel Hill, there will be a sister symposium in Mary’s honor entitled “Taking Exception: Women, Gender, Representation in the Eighteenth Century,” 1–3 February 2018.

 

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Exhibition | Visitors to Versailles, 1682–1789

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 14, 2017

Press release for the exhibition:

Visiteurs de Versailles, 1682–1789
Château de Versailles, 24 October 2017 — 25 February 2018
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 9 April — 29 July 2018

Curated by Bertrand Rondot and Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide

With nearly 10 million visitors per year, Versailles is one of the most visited historic sites in the world. The palace and gardens of Versailles have attracted visitors ever since the small hunting lodge built by Louis XIII was transformed by Louis XIV into one of the most stunning residences in Europe, open to everyone according to the King’s will.

Cosmopolitan Versailles has welcomed French and foreign travellers, princes, ambassadors, artists, writers, and philosophers, architects, scholars, tourists on the ‘Grand Tour’, and day trippers from near and far. While some came to Versailles to see the King or win his favour, others were received officially by the Sovereign in the Palace, a place of intensive diplomatic activity. From the ambassadors of Siam in 1686 to the ambassadors of the Indian Kingdom of Mysore in 1788, representatives from almost every continent came to Versailles. Each visit was an opportunity to discover beautiful national dress and the originality of the gifts visitors brought with them. Gazettes, literary journals, and official memoires bore testimony to the most important visitors and the parties held in their honour.

The exhibition is the first on this subject and will turn the spotlight on these visitors through more than 300 works from the late 17th century to the French Revolution. With portraits and sculptures, court attire, travel guides, tapestries, Sevres and Meissen porcelain, display weapons and snuffboxes, the exhibition will reveal what visitors discovered upon arriving at Versailles, the sort of welcome awaiting them, what they saw and their impressions, the gifts or memories they left with. Visitors today will discover the palace through the eyes of those who have gone before them over the course of history.

Curators
Bertrand Rondot, Head Curator at the Palace of Versailles, in charge of furniture and objets d’art
Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, Curator at the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

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Exhibition | The World Turned Upside Down

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on October 12, 2017

Benjamin West, Death on the Pale Horse, 1796, oil on canvas, 128.5 × 59.5 cm
(Detroit Institute of Arts)

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Now on view at the Haggerty Museum of Art:

The World Turned Upside Down: Apocalyptic Imagery in England, 1750–1850
Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, 6 October 2017 —  14 January 2018

All that can be annihilated must be annihilated
That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery.
–William Blake, Milton, ca. 1804–11

The threat of apocalyptic destruction loomed large in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, which stood as one of the most powerful nations in the world. Cataclysmic change occurred frequently within and beyond its borders. Political upheavals, natural disasters, and new foreign adversaries led many to believe that the end was at hand. The French Revolution of 1789 in particular was widely seen as the spark of the oncoming apocalypse—whether this was a source of celebration or fear was a matter of significant debate.

At the same time, England’s artistic activity was growing significantly. The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768, and London’s art market saw exponential expansion. In this political and cultural climate, audiences were eager for subjects of destruction and terror. The rise of Romanticism, with its emphasis on the supernatural, grotesque, and terrifying, led artists to explore apocalyptic sources from the Bible to John Milton. Caricaturists couched contemporary events in the language of the apocalypse. Despite their satirical nature, these images often seem prophetic in light of the political changes to come.

The World Turned Upside Down explores the myriad ways that artists in England visualized the apocalypse in a period fraught with political, religious, economic, and cultural change. From political prints to monumental paintings, lavishly illustrated books to cheap pamphlets, apocalyptic imagery pervaded every aspect of English visual culture in this period. The diversity of artistic responses to the dramatic events of the time makes one thing clear: anxiety about the future—of one’s soul and of the English nation as a whole—was inescapable.

William Hogarth, Tailpiece, or The Bathos (detail), 1764, etching and engraving, 31.8 × 33.3 cm
(New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

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Exhibition | Global Encounters and the Archives: Britain’s Empire

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 10, 2017

Opening this month at the Lewis Walpole Library:

Global Encounters and the Archives: Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole
The Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, CT, 20 October 2017 — 2 March 2018

Curated by Justin Brooks, Heather Vermeulen, Steve Pincus, and Cynthia Roman

Barrett Ranelagh, Portrait of General Henry Seymour Conway (The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University).

As part of the year-long celebrations of the 300th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s birth, Global Encounters and the Archives: Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole draws on the Lewis Walpole Library’s rich collections to bring Walpole’s global interests to light. As befitting the son of a prime minister (Sir Robert Walpole), the nephew of the auditor-general of the Revenue of America (Horatio Walpole), and the close friend of a secretary of state (Henry Seymour Conway) who oversaw important imperial affairs, Horace Walpole well understood the partisan conflicts that helped shape the British Empires. A lively collaboration between the Lewis Walpole Library and Yale faculty and graduate students, this exhibition takes full advantage of the diverse range of archival resources and special collections held by the Library, including manuscripts, printed texts, and graphic images in presenting conflicting visions of empire through the domains of political economy, diplomacy, slavery, and indigenous peoples.

In association with this exhibition, the library will sponsor a two-day conference in New Haven on 9-10 February 2018. The conference papers will present new archival-based research on Britain’s global empire in the long eighteenth century.

Curated by Justin Brooks (Doctoral Candidate in History, Yale University), Heather V. Vermeulen, (Ph.D., Lecturer in African American Studies, Yale University), Steve Pincus (Bradford Durfee Professor of History, Yale University), and Cynthia Roman (Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings, The Lewis Walpole Library).

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George Haggerty, The Many Lives of Horace Walpole
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 26 October 2017

In his charming biography of Horace Walpole, R.W. Ketton-Cremer makes the point that “one of the difficulties which confront a biographer of Walpole is his remarkable versatility. He was active in many fields—in politics, social life, literature, architecture, antiquarianism, printing, virtú; and it is not easy to include them all in the compass of a single volume.” George Haggerty, who is currently writing a new biography of Horace Walpole, will take up this challenge in his lecture with and through Walpole’s letters. Haggerty asserts that Walpole writes himself into his experience by means of his epistolary imagination. George E. Haggerty is the Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of English at the University of California, Riverside. Yale Center for British Art Lecture Hall, Thursday, 26 October 26 2017, 5:30pm.

Queer Biography and the Archives: A Roundtable with George Haggerty
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, 27 October 2017

Discussants include Abby Coykendall, Jason Farr, Caroline Gonda, Paul Kelleher, Ellen Malenas Ledoux, Susan Lanser, and Timothy Young. Friday, 27 October 2017, 2:30–4:45pm. Registration is required. For questions and further information, please contact Cynthia Roman cynthia.roman@yale.edu.

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Justin Brooks, Global Encounters in the Archives: Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole
The Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, CT, 1 November 2017

Justin Brooks, Doctoral Candidate in History, Yale University, will speak on the the Lewis Walpole Library’s exhibition Global Encounters in the Archives: Britain’s Empire in the Age of Horace Walpole. The exhibition, which looks at aspects of the global British Empire in the long eighteenth century, takes full advantage of the diverse range of archival resources held by the Library and which Mr. Brooks co-curated, including manuscripts, printed texts, graphic images, and objects. Interrelated themes include political economy, diplomacy, indigeneity, and slavery. The talk, exhibition, and other related programs celebrate the broad pre-disciplinary collecting activities of Horace Walpole (1717–1797) and W.S. Lewis (1895–1979) and will explore how current multi-disciplinary methodologies invite creative research in the Library’s archival collections. Mr. Brooks’s talk is offered as part of a year’s worth of events celebrating the 300th anniversary of Horace Walpole’s birth. This Lewis Walpole Library lecture is held in partnership with the Farmington Libraries. Wednesday, 1 November 2017, 7:00pm. Space is limited, and registration is required.

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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).

Abstraction

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.

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Exhibition | Maria Sibylla Merian

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on October 8, 2017

Opening this week at the Städel Museum:

Maria Sibylla Merian and the Tradition of Flower Depiction
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 7 April — 2 July 2017
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 11 October 2017 — 14 January 2018

Maria Sibylla Merian, Shrub Rose with Gracillariidae, Larva and Pupa, 1679 (Frankfurt: Städel Museum)

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), a native of Frankfurt, was not only a highly prominent naturalist but also one of the most renowned artists of her time. The year 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of her death. On this occasion, the Städel Museum is presenting the special exhibition Maria Sibylla Merian and the Tradition of Flower Depiction from 11 October 2017 to 14 January 2018. The show will acquaint visitors with the fascinating and filigree world of flower and plant depiction in drawings and prints of the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Developed in collaboration with the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Technische Universität Berlin, the exhibition will feature major works by Maria Sibylla Merian in the context of flower depictions by her forerunners, contemporaries and successors, among them the famous Hortus Eystettensis by the pharmacist Basilius Besler (1561–1629) of Nuremberg, ornament engravings by Martin Schongauer (ca. 1445–1491), pharmacopeia of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, plant studies from the circle of Albrecht Dürer, and studies of nature by Georg Flegel (1566–1638) and Joris (Georg) Hoefnagel (1542–1600/01) of the period around 1600. Flower drawings by Bartholomäus Braun will also be on view, as will floral compositions by Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706–1783) and her circle of the eighteenth century. Maria Sibylla Merian and the Tradition of Flower Depiction will present more than 150 works in all: sheets from the collections of the Städel and the Kupferstichkabinett, but also valuable loans from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Sächsische Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, and the Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt.

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Exhibition | Exchanging Gazes: Between China and Europe

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 7, 2017

Chinese Ladies Playing a Board Game, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (1736–1795), 2nd half of the 18th century, watercolour and opaque watercolour on silk (Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg)

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Press release from the Berlin State Museums:

Exchanging Gazes: Between China and Europe, 1669–1907
Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 29 September 2017 — 7 January 2018

China and Europe are linked by a long tradition of reciprocal cultural exchange. These transactions were particularly intensive during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), which is regarded as one of the key phases of Chinese cultural and political history. Exquisite gifts were exchanged. European envoys attempted to establish official trade relations with China. But their efforts were in vain, as the Chinese established trade barriers, with the exception of the port of Canton—although they were very much interested in European science, art, and culture.

The exhibition illustrates the richly varied nature of this mutual fascination in objects ranging in date between 1669 and 1907. Many of the almost one hundred pieces could be classified as Chinoiserie or so-called Europerie: they provide us with information about early modern European images of China and also allow us to trace the predominant images of Europe in China. Highlights of the exhibition include impressive paintings, exquisite porcelain objects, a door from a wood-paneled room, as well as large-format photographs and copper engravings. The photographs and engravings show the ‘European palaces’ which Emperor Qianlong, who reigned from 1736 to 1795, had built in one of his parks. Today, only their ruins exist: British and French troops burned down the palaces and destroyed the extensive gardens during their 1860 Chinese campaign. Surprisingly, however, in this way they created a visual subject that was much-loved by European photographers after 1870.

Until now, the reciprocity—and sheer variety—of cultural exchange between China and Europe has hardly been appreciated or shown in an exhibition setting. The chosen objects offer impressive testimony to a long- lived and mutual interest between the two cultures. In addition, they can help us understand how Europe’s conception of China and China’s conception of Europe changed over the course of 250 years.

Particularly in the 18th century, it was not only Europe looking to China’s art production but also China looking to that of Europe. The fact that these exchanging gazes are to be taken quite literally and that they were cast back and forth now and again is demonstrated by the Chinese production of porcelain: around 1700, European missionaries living at the imperial court contributed to the development of the so-called foreign colours (yangcai). The chinaware that was subsequently decorated with the new shades of red and pink (famille rose) became so popular that it developed into an export hit and hence also had a lasting impact on European dining culture.

An exported plate, which was produced in China and shows two pilgrims on their way to Cythera, the island of love, allows the term ‘exchange of gazes’ to be connected more closely to the 18th century. In the European love discourse of that time, this term is connected with the concept of the love of souls. This type of love enables an encounter between lovers at eye level; yet it also involves the danger of unilateral self-reflection. Certainly this metaphor of love cannot be transferred unmitigatedly to the cooperation of cultures. Nevertheless, it points at two contradictory foundations of cultural exchange: such an exchange is only possible if, apart from differences, common features are recognized, for instance in the characteristics of systems of rule or in courtly cultures. At the same time, ‘exchange of gazes’ can allude to the fact that it is first and foremost one’s own self-interest that is respected in these constellations.

Due to political and economic changes, China and Europe had to repeatedly reconsider themselves, which means they had to come to a kind of self-understanding as well as set themselves in relation to each other. This becomes particularly evident when looking at objects called Chinoiseries, as they reflect the European image of China prevalent throughout the 18th century. Chinoiseries can be juxtaposed with the so-called Europeries, which were produced in China and give insight into the Chinese image of Europe. In order to present the foreign as alien, it had to be at least partially adapted to the familiar, which is why the objects exhibited here can be aesthetically classed in-between China and Europe. Many objects can additionally be found ‘between’ China and Europe because they circulated as export goods, diplomatic gifts or as possessions acquired abroad, all in order to develop an altered effect in their respective new repositories. It is furthermore evident that motifs and techniques migrated not only between these cultures but also between genres and materials. Prints, for example, became built architecture and vice versa. The exhibition, moreover, offers the rare occasion to simultaneously view Chinoseries and Europeries, which are usually stored in different collections. This therefore allows the gaze to wander back and forth and, in so doing, to comprehend that China and Europe share a common history.

Even though there are hardly definite dates that mark the history of exchange between China and Europe, the years in the exhibition’s title indicate two important stages in the European production of images of China. In 1669, Johan Nieuhof’s travelogue was published. Nieuhof had joined the first Dutch delegation of the United East India Company travelling to China in order to intensify the trade relationship with the empire that increasingly isolated itself—a venture which failed. From a historic point of view, the journey’s true success was Nieuhof’s richly illustrated travelogue that was published in large numbers and became one of the most important sources for European knowledge about China.

1907, on the other hand, marks the creation of four architectural photographs by Ernst Boerschmann, who travelled China as an architectural historian and re-established Western knowledge on Chinese architecture. This had become possible only because the major European powers had gradually forced the opening of China beginning in the second half of the 19th century. The objects exhibited here render not only the changing relationship between China and Europe from the late 17th to the early 20th century comprehensible—how and why it shifted in the direction of colonial policy—but also the traditional tendencies which persisted through these changes. Boerschmann, for instance, perpetuated the myth that porcelain was used as construction material, even though this was not his personal view.

A special exhibition of the Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, in cooperation with the Max Planck Research Group ‘Objects in the Contact Zone: The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things’ at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence – Max Planck Institute.

Curatorial concept: Professor Dr. Matthias Weiß

From Michael Imhof Verlag:

Matthias Weiß, Eva-Maria Troelenberg, and Joachim Brand, eds., Wechselblicke: Zwischen China und Europa 1669–1907 / Exchanging Gazes: Between China and Europe 1669–1907 (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2017), 352 pages, ISBN: 9783731905738, $70.

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Exhibition | European Old Masters: 16th–19th Centuries

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 4, 2017

Press release for the exhibition:

European Old Masters: 16th–19th Centuries
Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Gymea (Sydney), 28 September — 3 December 2017

Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait of Madame de La Porte, 1754; oil on canvas, 82 × 65.5 cm (Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of William Bowmore, OBE 1992).

New South Wales’s most important European old masters including magnificent works by some of the leading Italian, French, and British artists of the High Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Romantic periods are on loan from the Art Gallery of New South Wales to Hazelhurst Regional Gallery for the exhibition European Old Masters: 16th–19th Century.

Michael Brand, director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales said the exhibition is the first occasion so many of these important European paintings have been shown together outside the Art Gallery of New South Wales. “We are delighted to collaborate with Hazelhurst Regional Gallery to share some of the finest European works in our collection with their audiences in the Sutherland Shire and further afield,” Brand said. “The Gallery’s early ambitions to display paintings by the masters can be seen in the roll-call of European greats inscribed on the building’s façade, and I applaud Hazelhurst Regional Gallery for showing works from this glorious tradition that is still relevant today,” Brand added.

Belinda Hanrahan, director, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery said leading artists in the exhibition include Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Bernardo Strozzi, and Frans Snyders. “Hazelhurst Gallery is thrilled that Michael Brand as director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales has given us this opportunity for people to encounter the state’s finest European old masters. Paintings such as these remind us of what is constant in human experience and emotion while offering an insight into ages and cultures so different to our own,” Belinda said.

Sutherland Shire Mayor and Hazelhurst Gallery Board member, Carmelo Pesce said this exhibition is another example of our commitment to a culturally rich community. The Sutherland Shire community is the first to see the collection outside its home and showcases Council’s commitment to strengthen its community connections through shared cultural experiences.

Despite its early ambitions to collect works by the European masters, The Art Gallery of New South Wales did not in fact start collecting old masters until the 1950s. AGNSW curator European prints, drawings and watercolours, Peter Raissis said prior to that time the great masters of the past could be experienced only through copies intended for educational purposes due to the Gallery’s earlier focus on acquiring works by living artists. “Between 1951 and 1976, the Gallery acquired an outstanding group of English 18th-century portraits, including works by three of the leading painters of the age: William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, and Joshua Reynolds. During these years the Gallery also purchased landscapes and subject pictures representative of British Neo-Classicism and Romanticism by artists such as Richard Wilson, John Glover, Richard Westall, William Hamilton, and Francis Danby. “Although accessions of non-British painting were rare, three powerful and imposing figural compositions by the Baroque painters Bernardo Strozzi, Jan van Bijlert, and Matthias Stomer expanded the scope and ambition of the collection,” Raissis said.

The extraordinary donation by James Fairfax AC during the 1990s significantly enriched the Gallery’s holdings of European old masters, particularly in the area of 18th-century French and Italian art such as the works by Nicolas de Largillierre and Canaletto. The collection has continued to develop with the acquisition of major Italian Renaissance and Baroque works such as the work of Giulio Cesare Procaccini, also exhibited in European Old Masters: 16th–19th Century.

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Exhibition | Canova, Hayez, and Cicognara: The Last Glory of Venice

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 3, 2017

Francesco Hayez, Rinaldo and Armida, 1812–13, oil on canvas
(Venice: Museo Nazionale Gallerie dell’Accademia)

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From Et Electa:

Canova, Hayez, and Cicognara: The Last Glory of Venice
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, 29 September 2017 — 2 April 2018

Curated by Paola Marini, Fernando Mazzocca, and Roberto De Feo

In the year of the bicentennial celebrations of the opening of the Gallerie dell’Accademia—an international institution first founded to compensate for the loss of so many masterpieces removed during the suppression of schools and religious institutions—the exhibition Canova, Hayez, Cicognara: L’ultima gloria di Venezia pays homage to a unique moment in the artistic history of the Serenissima, its cultural revival initiated in 1815 when the Four Horses of Saint Mark, the iconic symbol of the city, were returned from Paris.

The acknowledged leader of this revival was the intellectual Count Leopoldo Cicognara, President of the Accademia di Belle Arti, who together with his friend Antonio Canova, the guiding spirit of the project, and Francesco Hayez, worked to create a museum on an international scale, a worthy setting for Venice’s unrivaled art heritage, yet one also suitable for promoting contemporary art.

The exhibition includes 100 major works, arranged in nine thematic sections, including a series of artefacts known as ‘The Homage of the Venetian Provinces’ sent to the imperial court of Vienna in 1818 to mark the fourth marriage of Emperor Francis I, reunited and returning to their native city for the first time in 200 years.

Highlights of the exhibition also include the opening section dedicated to the return of the Four Horses of St Mark and the cameo depicting Jupiter the Shield Bearer, a masterpiece whose beauty was hymned by Canova, and further on the commemoration of the acquisition of a series of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael from Canova and Cicognara’s mutual friend Giuseppe Bossi, a purchase which significantly enriched the Academy’s collection.

Fernando Mazzocca et al., Canova, Hayez, Cicognara: L’ultima Gloria di Venezia (Venice: Marsilio, 2017), 352 pages, ISBN: 9788831728225, $65.

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