Enfilade

Display | New Discoveries in Philadelphia Slipware

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 20, 2018

18th-century Slipware Ceramics, excavated from the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

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Press release, via Art Daily:

Buried Treasure: New Discoveries in Philadelphia Slipware from the Collection of the Museum of the American Revolution
New York Ceramics and Glass Fair, 18–21 January 2018

A remarkable assemblage of 18th-century slipware ceramics uncovered during an archaeological excavation in Philadelphia has been revealed to the public for the first time. Nearly a dozen pieces of slipware, a form of decorative lead-glazed pottery, are on view at the 2018 New York Ceramics and Glass Fair from Thursday, January 18 until Sunday, January 21, at Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. Buried Treasure: New Discoveries in Philadelphia Slipware from the Collection of the Museum of the American Revolution is sponsored by Ceramics in America, which is published by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Museum of the American Revolution. After the exhibit, the items will be returned to the Museum for future display.

The slipware was uncovered during excavations on the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, during which archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group recovered nearly 85,000 artifacts. Among these was a group of slipware ceramics, including large dishes and other items, distinguished by vivid abstract patterns created using a specialized skill known as ‘slip trailing’, which involves pouring liquid clay onto an object.

The pieces were discovered in a brick-lined privy shaft associated with one or more taverns. Current research suggests that these previously undocumented slipwares were made in Philadelphia by one or more French or German potters operating within the confines of the historic Old City district. Researchers believe that, although the pieces primarily had display value, they may have been used for serving as well.

“We’ve seen hints of this type of slipware before but nothing that has this degree of intactness and comprehensiveness as far as the patterns exhibited here,” said Robert Hunter, editor of the annual journal Ceramics in America, an author, and archaeologist. “Nothing else has been this complete. By virtue of that intactness, we have been able to make great bounds in what we can learn from them about who made them and how they were used.”

“The site of the Museum of the American Revolution is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Hunter. “There is no question that it has been an extremely rich deposit of 18th-century material culture. And we’ve only scratched the surface—I believe it will be many years before we fully realize the research potential from the materials from the site.”

In addition to the slipware, a newly analyzed decorated porcelain teapot is on display. The teapot was discovered to be only the second-known example of American-made hard-paste porcelain. The first example was the ‘Holy Grail’ bowl exhibited last year. Historical research by Hunter and Miller has now suggested that this porcelain was being made in the period around 1765–68, earlier than the previously known Bonnin and Morris porcelain Factory which opened in 1770. This new discovery changes the complexion of the history of porcelain making both in Philadelphia and the larger American context. The findings will be discussed in depth in an upcoming article in Ceramics in America.

“What is so exciting about this discovery is that it is a reminder of the importance of archaeology in colonial urban sites like Philadelphia,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, Vice President of Collections, Exhibitions, and Programming at the Museum of the American Revolution. “The materials recovered on these sites require years of research to fully appreciate, and so these treasures from the Museum site will continue to provide new insight into Revolutionary America.”

Archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc. conducted fieldwork at the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution from July through October 2014 and briefly in April 2015 and May 2016, uncovering a record of occupation from the earliest settlement of Philadelphia through the mid-20th century. Most of the artifacts were found in brick-lined privy and well shafts. The features contained an enormous quantity of of ceramics, including locally made Philadelphia objects and imported English, German, and Chinese wares, among other artifacts.

Exhibition | Winckelmann and the Capitoline Museum

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 18, 2018

From the Capitoline Museum:

The Treasure of Antiquity: Winckelmann and the Capitoline Museum in Eighteenth-Century Rome
Musei Capitolini, Rome, 7 December 2017 — 22 April 2018

Curated by Eloisa Dodero and Claudio Parisi Presicce

Una mostra per celebrare gli anniversari della nascita e della morte del fondatore dell’archeologia moderna, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768)

La mostra Il Tesoro di Antichità. Winckelmann e il Museo Capitolino nella Roma del Settecento intende celebrare gli importanti anniversari winckelmanniani del 2017 (300 anni dalla nascita) e del 2018 (250 anni dalla morte) e si inserisce nel contesto delle manifestazioni europee coordinate dalla Winckelmann Gesellschaft di Stendal, dall’Istituto Archeologico Germanico di Roma e dai Musei Vaticani. L’esposizione ha una duplice finalità: la prima, offrire ai visitatori il racconto degli anni cruciali che hanno portato, nel dicembre del 1733, all’istituzione del Museo Capitolino, il primo museo pubblico d’Europa, destinato non solo alla conservazione ma anche alla promozione della “magnificenza e splendor di Roma”; la seconda, presentare le sculture capitoline sotto una luce diversa, ovvero attraverso le intuizioni, spesso geniali, del grande Winckelmann.

Arricchita da una selezione di 124 opere e da apparati multimediali realizzati appositamente, il Tesoro di Antichità si sviluppa in tre sedi diverse nell’ottica di una “mostra diffusa”: le Sale Espositive di Palazzo Caffarelli, le Stanze Terrene di Sinistra del Palazzo Nuovo e le Sale museali del Palazzo Nuovo.

Negli anni in cui Winckelmann rivoluziona il modo di studiare le testimonianze del mondo antico dando inizio alla moderna archeologia, il modello di museo pubblico rappresentato dal Museo Capitolino si diffonde rapidamente in tutta Europa, segnando la nascita di modalità del tutto nuove di fruizione dei beni artistici: un Tesoro di Antichità non più concepito come proprietà esclusiva di pochi, ma come luogo destinato all’avanzamento culturale della società.

Eloisa Dodero and Claudio Parisi Presicce, Il Tesoro di Antichità: Winckelmann e il Museo Capitolino nella Roma del Settecento (Rome: Gangemi Editore, 2017), 384 pages, ISBN: 978 884923 5371, 35€.

«Vivo come un artista e come tale sono accolto nei luoghi dove ai nella Roma del Settecento giovani è permesso di studiare, come nel Campidoglio. Qui è il Tesoro delle Antichità di Roma e qui ci si può trattenere in tutta libertà dalla mattina alla sera». È il 7 dicembre del 1755 ed è con queste parole che Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) descrive a un amico la sua prima visita al Museo Capitolino. Negli anni in cui Winckelmann rivoluziona il modo di studiare le testimonianze del mondo antico, il modello di museo pubblico rappresentato dal Museo Capitolino si diffonde in tutta Europa, segnando la nascita di nuove modalità di fruizione dei beni culturali: un «Tesoro di Antichità» non più concepito come proprietà esclusiva di pochi, ma come luogo destinato all’avanzamento culturale della società.

Exhibition | Thomas Gainsborough: Modern Landscape

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 16, 2018

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, ca. 1750
(London: National Gallery)

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On view this spring at the Hamburger Kunsthalle:

Thomas Gainsborough: The Modern Landscape / Die moderne Landschaft
Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2 March — 27 May 2018

Curated by Katharina Hoins and Christoph Martin Vogtherr

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) was a pioneering artist in the development towards ›modern‹ landscape painting of around 1800. He was mainly perceived as a painter of brilliant society portraits by his contemporaries, although he personally far preferred his landscapes. They reflect the dramatic technological and artistic developments of his time and the growing contradictions in British society. Landscape painting served Gainsborough as a laboratory to transform impressions into innovation. He experimented with colours and techniques, painted on glass and combined natural materials into landscape models. Establishing England as a centre of European landscape painting, he created images of timeless power. Iconic works like Mr and Mrs Andrews will feature in the exhibition. Gainsborough: Modern Landscape is the first exhibition by a German museum devoted to Gainsborough. For a German and an international public it promises the (re-)discovery of an exceptional painter.

M. Bills, B. Gockel, M. Hallett, K. Hoins, R. Jones, J. Karg, S. Pisot, and C. Vogtherr, Thomas Gainsborough: The Modern Landscape (Munich: Hirmer, 2018), 224 pages, ISBN: 978  37774  29977, $65.

Gainsborough himself favoured landscape painting, a field to which he made important contributions, over his well-known portraits. His works are fascinating for their painterly subtlety and technical variation. This volume brings together German and British traditions of viewing, interpreting, and studying Gainsborough. It looks at the connections to the Dutch landscapes, explains Gainsborough’s unusual and experimental techniques from an art technological point of view, and situates his landscapes in the context of the social tensions of early industrialisation.

Exhibition | Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 12, 2018

Looking ahead to the fall, from the press release:

Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome
The Frick Collection, New York, 31 October 2018 — 20 January 2019
Galleria Borghese, Rome, 2019

Curated by by Alvar González-Palacios and Xavier Salomon

Luigi Valadier, Herma with Bacchus for the Palazzo Borghese, alabaster and glazed bronze with traces of gilding, 1773, 69 inches (Rome: Galleria Borghese; photo by Mauro Magliani).

Of the many artists who flourished in Rome during the eighteenth century, the silversmith Luigi Valadier (1726–1785) was among those particularly admired by popes, royalty, and aristocrats. Luigi was born in Rome in 1726, about six years after his parents emigrated from France. His father, Andrea, established a silversmith workshop that quickly captured the attention of the wealthiest Roman aristocrats. Heir to his father’s business, Luigi had an unsurpassed technical expertise, which, combined with his avant-garde aesthetic, resulted in extraordinary works in silver and bronze. Well aware of the evolution of artistic taste throughout Europe, he had an impressive ability to reframe examples of ancient Roman art and architecture within the context of contemporary Rome. Sculptures in private collections, cameos, architectural details, and ruins of ancient monuments served as his inspiration for candelabra, tableware, altars, and centerpieces in both silver and bronze. Luigi’s fame and influence spread beyond the borders of Italy, and he received commissions from patrons in France, England, and Spain. He was, however, burdened by debts for commissions undertaken but never paid for, and, in 1785, he committed suicide, drowning himself in the Tiber. Following this tragic event, his workshop passed to his son Giuseppe.

Illustrating the uncommon versatility of Luigi Valadier, who produced everything from large altar pieces to intricate works of jewelry, the Frick’s fall 2018/winter 2019 exhibition will include more than sixty works carefully selected from the vast production of the Valadier workshop. Preparatory drawings of both sacred and profane subjects will be displayed alongside finished works. . One of the highlights of the exhibition will be a full centerpiece, or deser (from the Italianization of the French word dessert), created around 1778 for the Bali de Breteuil, Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Rome. Atop a gilt-bronze base inlaid with precious stones, Valadier has re-created temples, triumphal arches, columns, and other miniature representations of ancient Roman monuments. The multiple elements of the Breteuil deser are today separated between two museums in Madrid (the Museo Arqueológico Nacional and the Palacio Real), but will be reunited for this special exhibition at the Frick. It will therefore be possible to admire this masterwork in its entirety, as nobles and cardinals did in 1778, when it was displayed for a few days in Valadier’s workshop in a candle-lit room specially decorated for the occasion.

The exhibition will also feature finely worked silver plates, tureens, salt cellars, and other pieces of tableware. The juxtaposition of these individual works with the complete centerpiece will illustrate the evolution of the Valadier workshop. While the earliest pieces presented are distinctly in the Baroque style, Valadier’s work becomes more refined in the Rococo style, before becoming neoclassical by the late-eighteenth century. The monochrome silver objects will be contrasted with polychrome works in gilt-bronze, marble, and precious stones, such as the Egyptian clock, a table from Villa Borghese, and extraordinary mounts for two antique cameos once in the Vatican collections and now at the Musée du Louvre.

One section of the exhibition will be devoted to reproductions in bronze of famous antique sculptures in Roman collections, such as the Apollo Belvedere and the Ares Ludovisi.

Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome is co-curated by Professor Alvar González-Palacios, considered the world’s authority on Valadier, and Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection. It is part of a series of monographic exhibitions that focus on remarkable decorative arts artists and follows the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, organized by the Frick, where it was on view in fall 2016 before traveling to the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, in spring 2017.

Accompanying the exhibition will be the first complete monograph on Luigi Valadier. Written by González-Palacios, the book will shed new light on the provenance and dating of some works. It also identifies the exact roles performed inside the workshop by Andrea, Luigi, and Giuseppe Valadier, tracing the genesis of inventions and the authorship of models. The monograph also details the Valadier family’s collaborations with other workshops and artists. Typically, works in various materials such as bronze, marble, and precious stones were realized not by one person but by many artisans working together. The decoration of both sacred and private buildings likewise involved outside artisans and architects. This will be the only comprehensive publication on Valadier in English and, lavishly illustrated, it will feature much-needed new photography.

Together, the monograph and exhibition at the Frick will reconstruct the artistic endeavors of one of the most important silversmith families, shedding new light on the cultural life of Rome and, more broadly, Europe, during the eighteenth century. Following the presentation of this show in New York, a related exhibition will be on view later in 2019 at the Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Exhibition | Pastels in Pieces

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 11, 2018

Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Portrait of Gabriel Bernard de Rieux, 1739–41; pastel and gouache on paper mounted on canvas, 201 × 150 cm (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum).

On view through the summer at The Getty Center:

Pastels in Pieces
Getty, Los Angeles, 16 January — 29 July 2018

Curated by Emily Beeny

European paper was not manufactured in giant sheets until the nineteenth century. Competing with painters who worked on monumental canvases, eighteenth-century pastellists joined together multiple sheets of paper in order to create large, continuous surfaces. The piecing together of pastels, however, also served other purposes, allowing artists to paper over their mistakes or paste the heads of important sitters onto bodies posed by models. Matching each exhibited pastel with a map of its component sheets, this installation encourages visitors to consider how these objects were made.

Exhibition | Oser l’Encyclopédie: Un combat des Lumières

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, resources by Editor on January 10, 2018

Now on view at the Mazarin Library (with the full press release available as a PDF file here)

Oser l’Encyclopédie: Un combat des Lumières
Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris, 20 October 2017 — 19 January 2018

L’Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751–1772), codirigée par Diderot, D’Alembert et Jaucourt, constitue la plus vaste entreprise éditoriale du 18e siècle, par le nombre des forces humaines mobilisées, l’étendue des savoirs convoqués, et son retentissement en Europe. La publication de cet « ouvrage immense et immortel » (Voltaire), dont la première édition rassemble 28 volumes, quelque 74 000 articles et près de 2 600 planches, s’étend sur plus de 25 ans. Autorisée par un privilège de librairie (1746), elle est censurée alors que deux tomes sont déjà imprimés (1752), puis tolérée (1753), à nouveau interdite et condamnée à la destruction (1759), et enfin poursuivie grâce à une permission tacite (1759–1772). Et, parce qu’elle constitue une entreprise commerciale à succès, elle connaît immédiatement réimpressions et contrefaçons.

Pour la première fois, une édition critique de l’Encyclopédie voit le jour. Réalisée au format numérique et menée de façon collaborative par plus de 120 chercheurs de tous horizons, elle vise l’annotation progressive des articles et des planches, en mobilisant l’ensemble des connaissances sur l’ouvrage. Soutenue par l’Académie des sciences, l’Édition Numérique Collaborative et CRitique de l’Encyclopédie (ENCCRE)1 s’appuie sur un exemplaire exceptionnel du premier tirage de la première édition, conservé par la Bibliothèque Mazarine qui en a fait l’acquisition au 18e siècle, volume après volume.

L’exposition met en relation cet exemplaire original et l’édition numérique. Elle montre ce que fut le travail de l’Encyclopédie au 18e siècle, et ce que représente son édition critique au 21e. De l’architecture complexe de l’ouvrage à son histoire éditoriale, on y découvre matériellement et numériquement l’intérieur de l’œuvre, ses enjeux et ce qui fut une de ses ambitions fondamentales : « changer la façon commune de penser ». (Diderot).

Organisation et commissariat
Alain Cernuschi (Université de Lausanne)
Alexandre Guilbaud (Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu) Marie Leca Tsiomis (Université Paris Ouest, Société Diderot) Irène Passeron (Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu)
Yann Sordet (Bibliothèque Mazarine)
Anne Weber (Bibliothèque Mazarine)

Alain Cernuschi, Alexandre Guilbaud, Marie Leca-Tsiomis, Irène Passeron, with Yann Sordet, preface by Cathérine Bréchignac, Oser l’Encyclopédie: Un combat des Lumières (Paris: EDP Sciences, 2017), 120 pages, ISBN: 978  27598  21389, 15€.

Display | Lighting Up the Stage: Stars of the Georgian Theatre

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 5, 2018

From The Holburne Museum:

Lighting Up the Stage: Stars of the Georgian Theatre
The Holburne Museum, Bath, 2 February — 3 June 2018

Samuel de Wilde, John Palmer as Don John in ‘The Chances’, 1791 (Bath: The Holburne Museum).

William Somerset Maugham (1874–1965), a playwright and novelist, began collecting paintings of actors in the 1910s. He built a sizeable and important collection of theatrical portraits, which he displayed in his villa in the south of France. The collection remained together throughout the Second World War, despite Maugham himself having to leave France and his villa being taken over by the occupying forces. He gifted his collection to the National Theatre in 1951, from which the paintings were transferred to Bath in 2010. The collection contains key works by Zoffany, including portraits of David Garrick in some of his most celebrated tragic and comic roles, and the 18th-century small-scale portraitist Samuel de Wilde. The theatrical portraits immortalise stars of the 18th- and 19th-century stage in character and often in moments of high drama. The collection forms an important historical record as well as being the unique creation of one man’s personal taste.

This temporary display will provide a rare view of some of the less frequently seen portraits in the Maugham collection. These include sitters whose names may be less familiar to audiences today but who were nevertheless considered among the great actors of their day. They include the comic actor Richard Wilson (1744–1796) and John Palmer (1745–1798), who regularly performed at Drury Lane and who Sheridan nicknamed ‘plausible Jack’.

Later in the year, The Holburne Museum will present the exhibition Gainsborough and the Theatre , on view from 5 October 2018 until 20 January 2019.

Exhibition | Faces of China

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 4, 2018

From the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin:

Faces of China: Portrait Paintings from the Ming and Qing (1368–1912)
Gesichter Chinas: Porträtmalerei der Ming- und Qing-Dynastie (1368–1912)

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 18 May 2013 — 23 February 2014
Kulturforum, Berlin, 12 October 2017 — 7 January 2018

Unidentified Painter, Portrait of Dawaci, 佚名 達瓦斉像, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736–1795), ca. 1756, oil on Korean paper (Ethnologisches Museum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, I D 22242, Waltraut Schneider-Schütz).

Faces of China is the first exhibition explicitly dedicated to Chinese portrait painting. A selection of more than 100 paintings from the collections of the Palace Museum Beijing and the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto, most of which have never been shown in Europe, spans a period of more than 500 years. The main focus is on the unique portraits of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), including images of members of the imperial court, ancestors, military figures, and informal portraits of artists and famous women. These portraits evidence a blossoming of the genre that had never been seen before.

Portrait painting has a 2000-year-old tradition in China. Beginning in the middle of 16th century, the late Ming Dynasty brought with it an economic boom and great intellectual openness that spurred a significant moment of florescence. It was in this period that Italian Jesuit painters visited the country, such as Matteo Ricci, who brought new techniques of European portrait painting with him in 1583. After the Manchu people conquered China in 1644 and established the Qing Dynasty, the imperial court in Beijing was host to a lively cultural exchange between China and Europe. This is particularly well reflected in the portrait paintings. The Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione (Chinese name: Lang Shining; Milan 1688–Beijing 1766) is a key figure of this period.

Chinese portrait painting is characterized by two traditions of representation: images of ancestors and images of living figures. Ancestor portraits were created to honor deceased family members, who were venerated as part of religious observance within the family. Most were painted by professional but anonymous artists and are unsigned. On the other hand, there are portraits signed by often famous artists depicting well-known figures, such as officials, artists, poets, or those in the military, along with ordinary citizens shown in both single and group family portraits.

In exhibitions on Chinese portrait painting to date, only one of these traditions of representation has always been the central theme. However, Faces of China is deliberately dedicated to both of these two traditions, as developments in one always informed developments in the other. While the upper exhibition hall is dedicated to portraits of princely figures, officials, and artists, the focus in the galleries on the lower exhibition hall is on private individuals, families, and ancestral portraits.

The works are placed in carefully chosen relationships in light of their original social and religious contexts, as well as their circumstances of production. Thus, large-scale imperial portraits are surrounded by imperial silk garments once worn in the Palace—both groups of objects are on loan from the Palace Museum Beijing. The ancestor portraits—loans from the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto—are placed alongside an altar table with a censer, candlesticks, and flower vases, intended for honoring deceased relatives. Further objects on display come from the extensive Chinese collections of the Staatliche Museen’s own Ethnologisches Museum and Museum für Asiatische Kunst.

A collection of 365 preparatory studies for ancestral portraits that have never gone on display before, along with a series of presentation pieces in album form that artists showed potential clients as a way of sampling their wares, offers insight into workshop practices of the time. Also included in this collection are handbooks for portrait painters with woodcut illustrations, such as Ding Gao’s Secret Workshop Traditions of Portrait Painting, which not only gives details on technique, but also explores scientific approaches to the art of portraiture, such as physiognomy.

In addition, the exhibition deliberately highlights transcultural relationships to European portraiture by placing the Chinese portraits alongside a handful of European masterworks from the same time. So Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of a Genovese Lady (ca. 1623) from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie appears next to a Chinese portrait of similarly large dimensions and from the same time, depicting a male ancestor.

The exhibition is organized by the Museum für Asiatische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Palace Museum Beijing, in cooperation with the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto (at the ROM, the exhibition was entitled Faces to Remember: Chinese Portraits of the Ming and Qing Dynasties). An extensive catalogue, published by Imhof Verlag, will accompany the exhibition.

Klaas Ruitenbeek, Gesichter Chinas: Porträtmalerei der Ming- und Qing-Dynastie, 1368–1912 (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2017), 368 pages, ISBN: 978 37319 05875, 50€.

Exhibition | Gainsborough’s Family Album

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 3, 2018

Looking ahead to the fall with a reminder that paper proposals for the coordinated conference on Portraiture and Biography, to take place at the end of November, are due by 1 February 2018; from the NPG press release (6 December 2017). . .

Gainsborough’s Family Album
National Portrait Gallery, London, 22 November 2018 — 3 February 2019
Princeton University Art Museum, 23 February — 5 June 2019.

Curated by David Solkin with Lucy Peltz

Thomas Gainsborough, The Artist’s Daughters, Mary, and Margaret, Chasing a Butterfly, ca. 1756, 113.5 × 105 cm (London: National Gallery).

The National Portrait Gallery London is to bring together for the first time all twelve surviving portraits of Thomas Gainsborough’s daughters in a major new exhibition, Gainsborough’s Family Album, opening on 22 November 2018. The portraits, which trace the development of the Gainsborough girls from playful young children to fashionable adults, include such famous images as The Artist’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly (ca. 1756) and The Artist’s Daughters with a Cat, (ca. 1760–61). These will be shown alongside rarely seen paintings, such as the grand double full-length portrait of Mary and Margaret Gainsborough as sumptuously-dressed young women (ca. 1774).

Featuring over fifty works from public and private collections across the world, Gainsborough’s Family Album will provide a unique insight into the private life and motivations of one of Britain’s greatest artists. The exhibition will include a number of works that have never been on public display in the UK, including an early portrait of the artist’s father John Gainsborough (ca. 1746–48) and a drawing of Thomas and his wife Margaret’s pet dogs, Tristram and Fox.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1888) was one of Britain’s most successful eighteenth-century portraitists, but in his private correspondence he lamented that the need to earn his living from an endless parade of “damnd Faces” prevented him for pursuing his devotion to landscape, the branch of art he most loved. Nonetheless, he still managed to find the time, the energy and the desire to paint more portraits of his family members than any other artist of his or any earlier period is known to have produced. These include pictures of himself, his father, his wife, his daughters, two sisters and two brothers, a brother-in-law, two nephews, one niece, and a few more distant connections, not to mention his dogs. The vast majority of these works stayed with the family throughout the painter’s lifetime, by the end of which he had single-handedly created an unusually comprehensive visual record of an eighteenth-century British kinship network, with several of its key players shown more than once, at different stages of their lives.

Gainsborough’s Family Album will chart Gainsborough’s career from youth to maturity, telling the story of a provincial artist’s rise to metropolitan fame and fortune. However, alongside this runs a more private narrative about the role of portraiture in the promotion of family values, at a time when these were in the process of assuming a recognizably modern form. The exhibition will both offer a new perspective on Gainsborough the portraitist and challenge our thinking about his era and its relationship to our own.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “We are delighted to be able to bring together so many of Gainsborough’s family portraits for the first time. The exhibition, which is unique in focusing on his paintings made for love, rather than for money, provides an unprecedented opportunity to see the intimate and personal aspect of Gainsborough’s portraits through this remarkable body of works depicting ‘ordinary people’ from a time when portraiture was almost exclusively confined to the rich, the famous and the upper classes.”

Professor David Solkin, Exhibition Curator and Emeritus Professor of the Courtauld Institute of Art says: “My hope is that Gainsborough’s Family Album will prompt new ways of thinking about Gainsborough and about the family albums that so many of us create.”

Gainsborough’s Family Album is curated by Professor David Solkin, with support from Dr Lucy Peltz, Senior Curator, 18th-Century Collections and Head of Collections Displays (Tudor to Regency), at the National Portrait Gallery. Professor Solkin is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of British art. He joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in 1986 and completed his career there as Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the History of Art and Dean and Deputy Director. Solkin has published extensively on eighteenth-century art and culture and is the author of four major books, the latest of which are Painting out of the Ordinary: Modernity and the Art of Everyday Life in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (2008) and Art in Britain 1660–1815 (2015). He has also curated several important exhibitions including, most recently, Turner and the Masters (2009).

Dr Peltz joined the National Portrait Gallery in 2001 as Curator of 18th-Century Collections and has curated several permanent galleries, temporary exhibitions and displays including The Regency in the Weldon Galleries (2003–); Brilliant Women: 18th-Century Bluestockings (2008); Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance (2010–11) and Simon Schama’s Face of Britain (2014–15), a project which resulted in a television series, a Viking-Penguin book, and an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

David Solkin, Ann Bermingham, and Susan Sloman, Gainsborough’s Family Album £30.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated book featuring fifty beautifully reproduced portraits from public and private collections around the world. The book includes essays by exhibition curator David Solkin, Ann Bermingham, Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Susan Sloman, independent art historian and author of Gainsborough in Bath.

Exhibition | Fans of the Eighteenth Century

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 2, 2018

T. Ballister (English publisher), Traveling Fan, 1788; paper, wood, bone or ivory, and metal; engraved with stippling; opaque watercolor (hand-coloring) and sticks and guards; rivet; 24.4 cm length, 41.9 cm width open (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mrs. S. Conning, 9206).

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The exhibition is presented as a complement to Casanova: The Seduction of Europe, on view at the Legion of Honor from February 10 until May 28.

Fans of the Eighteenth Century
de Young Museum, San Francisco, from 31 March 2018

Fans have served as accessories of fashion and utility since antiquity but reached their peak production and use in eighteenth-century Europe. Made from and embellished by precious materials such as ivory, mother-of-pearl, and silver and gold leaf, eighteenth-century fans also featured designs that reflected the spirit of their times. Fans addressed current events as well as themes of broad interest, including biblical and mythological tales and romanticized domestic and pastoral vignettes. Fans of the Eighteenth Century explores this quintessential period of fan production through a selection of examples from the permanent collection.