Enfilade

AWA and Art Restoration in Florence

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on July 17, 2018
“The Lady Who Paints,” an 11-minute video produced by Bunker Films, addresses the work of Advancing Women Artists Foundation, focusing on the Virgin Mary Presents the Christ Child to Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi by Violante Siries Cerroti, located in the sacristy of the church of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in Florence. Severely damaged in the 1966 flood, the painting was restored by Nicoletta Fontani and Elizabeth Wicks in 2016. More information is available in this book available from the AWA Foundation: I. Ciseri, J. Fortune, P. Masse, and E. Wicks, The Lady Who Paints: Violante Siriès Cerroti (1709–1783) (Pisa: Pacini Editore, 2016), 106 pages, ISBN: 978-8869951145 (English and Italian), €20.

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CAA’s listserv newsletter from yesterday noted this ArtNet News article:

Kate Brown, “How a Female-Led Art Restoration Movement in Florence Is Reshaping the Canon,” ArtNet News (12 July 2018).

Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to ask the right question.

That is exactly what Jane Fortune did on a visit to Florence 12 years ago. While touring the Renaissance city’s exquisite museums and fresco-covered churches, the American philanthropist began to wonder, “Where are the women?” Her search for an answer set Fortune on a passionate quest to restore the lost legacies and artworks of Florence’s forgotten female artists, digging into museums’ archives and dusty deposits with her organization, Advancing Women Artists (AWA). . .

Since the foundation launched more than 10 years ago, AWA has restored some 53 artworks. By September, that number will jump to 58. The nonprofit has become the go-to for Florentine curators who want to research their own collections, which house many works by women (AWA has inventoried 2,000 so far) that have been unseen for centuries. “That’s half the population that’s not being heard,” Fortune says. “I want to give them a voice.”

AWA has some ground rules for museums that engage them for help: If the work in question comes out of storage, it doesn’t go back into storage. It goes on the wall. And if a work needs to be restored, the vast majority of projects are carried out by female conservators.

Linda Falcone, the director of AWA, explains that the majority of restorers in Florence are in fact women, but that it was not always this way. The shift was caused by a devastating flood that struck in 1966, which led to the loss or damage of millions of artworks and books, including many masterpieces. A group of scholars, art students, and other art experts dubbed the “Mud Angels” flocked to the city to help with the restoration effort, as did the so-called “Flood Ladies”—female artists who donated art to replace lost masterworks.

Art historians like Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti, who came from Denmark, were eager to help. In turn, they established a female-led network of experts, many of whom are still active today. Piacenti went on to become the head of Florence’s Museum Stibbert until 2012, and she is among an impressive number of female curators who work in the city’s institutions.

“It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,” Falcone says. “Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.” . . .

The full article is available here»

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Portrait by William Dering

Posted in museums by Editor on July 3, 2018

Press release (2 July 2018) from Colonial Williamsburg:

William Dering, Portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth (Mrs. Mordecai Booth), oil on canvas, ca. 1745 (Colonial Williamsburg, Gift of Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles and Georginana Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles, 2018-165, A&B).

In the first half of the 18th century, William Dering was a well-connected dancing master and artist who lived and worked in Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, only six of Dering’s paintings are known to survive; four, including the artist’s only known signed and dated portrait, are in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection, the largest assemblage of his work. Now, through a generous gift from the sitter’s descendants, Joyce Armistead Booth (Mrs. Mordecai Booth), ca. 1745, a large-scale, oil on canvas, joins Dering’s other works at Colonial Williamsburg, including the well-known portrait of the subject’s son, George Booth. Until now, the painting of Mrs. Booth, which is in remarkable condition and survives in its original frame, has descended through the Booth family.

“Rare early works by local artists such as William Dering expand the depth and breadth of our collections and better enable us to share America’s enduring story,” said Mitchell Reiss, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are particularly grateful for gifts such as this since they allow us to teach history in a very human and personal way.”

“Executed in saturated, well-preserved reds, blues, and golds, and measuring more than four feet in height, this likeness of Joyce Armistead Booth is visually arresting,” said Ronald Hurst, the foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums. “The portrait commands the viewer’s attention, and in so doing, provides a window into the goals and aspirations of early Virginia’s planter aristocracy.”

This Dering portrait is significant to ongoing research that Colonial Williamsburg’s experts are undertaking. Laura Barry, Juli Grainger curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture, and Shelley Svoboda, senior conservator of paintings, are at work on a comprehensive study of the artist and his work from both historical and technical perspectives. The portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth, especially due to its pristine condition, informs this research and will help the experts to better understand the nuances in Dering’s other canvases.

“This generous gift gives us an extraordinary opportunity to reunite two family portraits, more fully tell the story of this important Virginia artist and to better understand the context of William Dering’s body of work,” said Ms. Barry. Along with the additional works by this artist in the collection, including the portrait of Elizabeth Buckner Stith (an oil on canvas dating from 1745–49, the only signed and dated Dering example and for years was the only means by which to measure his work), Ms. Barry and Ms. Svoboda are able to study the individual qualities of each painting as well as to examine them together as a group.

Little is known about William Dering in his early years, but he arrived in Williamsburg from Philadelphia in 1737. He advertised in the Virginia Gazette that same year, the first of several occasions he did so, to announce the opening of a dancing school at the College of William and Mary. By 1744 his success enabled him to purchase two lots and move into the Thomas Everard House on Palace Green. The following year, Dering advertised twice to promote “an assembly at the Capitol… during the Court,” a ball held when the capital city was busy with visiting elected representatives from across the colony. During his time in Williamsburg, Dering also befriended William Byrd II, a Virginia planter and Renaissance man who owned one of the largest art collections in the American colonies. During his many visits to Byrd’s James River estate, Dering painted his daughter Anne Byrd Carter. (Her portrait is also in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.) The artist’s extravagant lifestyle led to debt, however, and he was twice forced to mortgage his property. Ultimately, Dering departed Williamsburg for Charleston, South Carolina, leaving his wife and son behind for a year to handle the public sale of his possessions. Little is known about Dering or his family after 1750.

The portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth is a gift from Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles and Georginana Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles. It will be included in a future exhibition of the artist’s portraits to be held at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

“The painting of Joyce Armistead Booth, my five-times great-grandmother, has been a part of my life for all 74 years, but Miss Joyce (as we were taught to call her) is nearly 300 years old,” said Julia Miles Brock of Virginia. “My brother, sister, and I decided it was time she was in a museum with its attendant care, proper storage, and an appreciative audience.”

Nationalmuseum Sweden Acquires Per Krafft’s ‘Belisarius’

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

Press release (19 June 2018) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum:

Per Krafft the Younger, Belisarius, 1799, oil on canvas, 125 × 94 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NM 7468).

Nationalmuseum has acquired a painting by Per Krafft the Younger (1777–1863) depicting the blind former general Belisarius. This painting ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style.

In 1796, at the age of nineteen, Per Krafft the Younger was awarded a travel scholarship by the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, in part because Jonas Åkerström (1759–1795), who had used the scholarship to spend time in Rome, had suddenly died the year before at the early age of 36. Krafft went to Paris where as the only Swede he spent three years studying under Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). David had a large number of pupils, and his teaching, which in those days was held at the Louvre, laid emphasis on painting and drawing technique, modelling, and nature studies in order to depict only the ideal subject matter: themes from antiquity.

David’s influence is evident in Krafft’s painting, which ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style. It shows the strict lines of classical architecture in the background and a sculptural approach to the figure drawing. The palette is also a reminder of David’s work, with fine contrasts between their clothing—white and green and red—worn by Belisarius and the boy, their skin tone, and the shiny surface of the reflective metal on the belt and helmet. The figures almost stand out in relief against the light brown, yellow, and blue-grey tones of the background. The work was executed in 1799 and sent together with three other paintings—Phrygian Lyre Player Meditating, Paris, and Love—to Stockholm for exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1801.

The motif showing the successful Byzantine general Belisarius who was reduced to beggar status proved popular in the latter part of the 18th century as a result of the novel Bélisaire by Jean-François Marmontel (1723–1799), which was published in 1767. As a punishment for the general who was suspected of having conspired against him, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I is alleged to have put out Belisarius’s eyes, after which Belisarius was forced to beg by the gates of Rome. This choice of motif gave Krafft the opportunity to direct criticism in allegorical form at the tyrannical rulers of his day. Nor is it altogether surprising that Krafft’s teacher, the Republican David, had used the motif in a famous painting from 1781, now on display in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. A further famous example was executed by another of David’s pupils, François-Pascal-Simon Gérard (1770–1837), now on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Krafft emphasises the pathos of his subject in the sober mood that permeates his work in general and in the detail in particular, such as the way the old soldier uses his helmet to collect the alms received. Per Krafft the Younger enjoyed a long life. He was appointed court painter and professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. During his career he was to become primarily a portrait painter.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funding for art acquisitions; rather, the collections benefit from donations and funding from private trusts and foundations. This acquisition has been made possible by a generous donation from the Hedda & N.D. Qvist Memorial Fund.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm to Reopen October 13

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

From the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

The New Nationalmuseum at Blasieholmen opens again October 13, 2018. After five years closed, we wish you a warm welcome to a whole new museum experience. The renovation is finished, and we are currently working on the displays and exhibitions.

The renovation project has created a modern museum environment that is better for the art, the exhibitions, and for visitors. The New Nationalmuseum will be an open, visitor-friendly place where art can be experienced on both a large and a small scale—while preserving the integrity of the museum’s architectural heritage. The long-awaited climate control system will enable us to present the museum’s collections in an integrated way, crossing the boundaries between artistic disciplines. We will be able to exhibit paintings and other works that are more climate-sensitive, such as drawings and graphic art, alongside applied art and design. This will enhance the visitor experience by tying together multiple stories. It will also allow us to put more artworks on display.

Thanks to the relocation of behind-the-scenes activities such as administration and storage, the New Nationalmuseum will have more public space for exhibits and visitor amenities. By opening up both courtyards for use as multifunctional spaces, we can also improve the logistics of the main floor. The building will have multiple entrances and exits, as required by the fire code, which determines the maximum number of visitors that can be accommodated at any time—a number that is likely to increase.

Built in 1866, the Nationalmuseum building is over 150 years old. For decades, the building has been constantly repurposed and adapted to the museum’s changing and growing requirements. One layer of modifications has been piled on top of another. However, the building had never been thoroughly renovated and did not meet today’s accepted international standards in terms of safety, climate control, fire safety, working environment, and logistics. The renovations has brought the building up to modern operational and regulatory standards.

Technical innovations have made it possible to reinstate bricked-up windows to let in natural light. Specially developed technology will ensure that no artworks are damaged. A state-of-the-art climate control system will be installed, improving the environment for artworks, visitors, and staff. The public spaces will be expanded considerably, adding about 2300 square metres. Both courtyards, which currently house the auditorium and the restaurant, will be turned into public spaces housing visitor amenities and some exhibits. A new layout and security technology will enable us to keep the museum’s lower level open in the evenings independently of the rest of the building.

After Restoration Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne Back on View in DC

Posted in museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

Press release (25 May 2018) from the National Gallery in Washington:

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Bacchus and Ariadne, ca. 1743/1745, oil on canvas (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, Timken Collection).

Following a four-year-long conservation treatment, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne (ca. 1743/1745) returns to public view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, on 14 June 2018. The comprehensive restoration has revealed elements by the Venetian master hidden from view since the work was removed from its original location at the end of the 18th century. The dramatic results provide viewers with a new sense of the immense painting’s appearance at the time of its creation.

“The conservation of this remarkable work reveals significant discoveries about Tiepolo’s process and clues to the painting’s original home,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This project also represents one of the many instances of rich collaboration between the Gallery’s team of conservators, scientists, and curators, all leaders in their field.”

Bacchus and Ariadne is believed to have been created to decorate the staircase of an unknown Venetian palace, only identified in a (now-lost) letter from 1764 by Tiepolo as the palace of “V.E.” The painting was probably one of four works—only three of which are known to survive—that each depicted a natural element. Bacchus and Ariadne represents earth, The Triumph of Amphitrite (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) represents water, and Juno and Luna (Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) represents air. The location of the fourth painting—which likely depicted Vulcan, the god of fire, and his wife, Venus—is unknown. A smaller example by Tiepolo of the same subject at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does, however, give a sense of what the painting may have looked like. All three of the extant paintings are connected by similar architectural motifs that would have tied them to their original locations, such as stone volutes at the top corners and long-necked, griffin-like forms in the bottom left and right corners. These architectural elements were likely painted over when the works were removed from their original setting, which according to curatorial records was done by 1798.

Treatment Details

The project’s painting conservator, Sarah Gowen Murray, worked closely with colleagues in painting conservation, scientific research, and preventive conservation to treat the painting and conduct analysis of the work. Overpaint removal uncovered tall vertical leaves on the left and right sides of the composition. Infrared imaging—conducted by John Delaney, senior imaging scientist—and analysis of cross-section samples of those areas—examined and interpreted by Barbara Berrie, head of the scientific research department—indicated that the leaves were originally bound together by gold ribbons. A precedent for the ribbons was established in another work by Tiepolo, Castigo dei Serpenti (The Scourge of the Snakes) (1732–1735) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. These findings, archived documentation images, and other works by the artist were then consulted to reconstruct the missing elements with inpainting.

Other discoveries made during the treatment include indications of significant compositional changes made by Tiepolo, suggesting that Bacchus and Ariadne may have been the first painting of the series. X-radiographs exposed curved forms at the lower-right corner extending beneath the griffin and the jaguar—perhaps initial attempts by the artist to incorporate the composition into the work’s surrounding architecture.

Bacchus and Ariadne

Tiepolo’s painting magnificently depicts the moment before Bacchus, the god of wine, crowns Ariadne after falling in love with her. According to the myth, Bacchus discovered Ariadne on the shore of the island of Naxos where she was left behind by her lover, Theseus. Following this scene, Ariadne ascended to Mount Olympus, gaining immortality. Tiepolo’s rendering of the myth shows Bacchus sitting unsteadily atop a barrel with the glittering crown in hand. Bacchus is surrounded by revelers holding jugs of wine and grapevines, representing the fecundity of earth, while one of the jaguars that led his chariot rests beneath him. The wheat Ariadne wears in her hair and reeds held in her hand further symbolize the earth.

Following its removal from its original setting, Bacchus and Ariadne remained in private collections in Italy and Vienna before being sold in the late 1920s to William Robert Timken and Lillian Guyer Timken. The painting came to the Gallery in 1960 as part of the Timken Collection. Oliver Tostmann, now curator of European paintings at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, contributed significantly to the understanding of Baccchus and Ariadne and its counterparts when he was a Joseph McCrindle Fellow and then Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the National Gallery from 2007 to 2011.

New Exhibitions at Monticello Include Life of Sally Hemings

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on June 17, 2018

Sarah Stockman reports on the Sally Hemings exhibition for The New York Times (16 June 2018), and the Monticello website now provides extensive information on Hemings. From the press release (7 June 2018) from Monticello:

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will welcome a gathering of descendants of enslaved families, commemorate 25 years of its Getting Word Oral History Project, and unveil new exhibits and restored spaces, including a groundbreaking exhibit on Sally Hemings.

The opening marks the conclusion of a five-year restoration initiative, known as The Mountaintop Project. Initiated by a transformational gift from David M. Rubenstein in 2013, the project has made possible a total of nearly 30 new restored or recreated spaces and exhibits. Iconic rooms, on every level of the house, received updated interpretation or were restored for the first time. On Mulberry Row, buildings were physically and virtually restored or reconstructed. Together, these spaces illuminate the stories of individuals and families, and reveal how the lives of the free and enslaved were interwoven.

“In Jefferson’s words, we ‘follow truth wherever it may lead,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This transformation of Monticello—made possible by decades of research, hundreds of descendants, and thousands of donors—brings forward a more honest, relevant, and inclusive view of our history.”

On June 16, six new exhibits and restored spaces will open for the first time, including:
The Life of Sally Hemings — an immersive digital exhibit, anchored in the South Wing where she once lived, that relies on the words of her son, Madison, to explore her life and legacy;
The Getting Word Oral History Project — an exhibit on the enslaved families of Monticello and their descendants;
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson — an exhibit which provides fresh insights into the life of Jefferson’s wife, located in the first building erected at Monticello;
The Granger-Hemings Kitchen — an exhibit on Monticello’s first kitchen and new archaeological discoveries that reveal the stories of enslaved cooks, Ursula Granger, James Hemings, and Peter Hemings;
The Dairy — a restored, period room where enslaved workers made cream, butter and soft cheese for the household; and
The Textile Workshop — a restored ca. 1775 structure featuring an exhibit about Mulberry Row and a room depicting the factory where enslaved women and children turned cotton, hemp, and wool into cloth for enslaved people and enterprise.

For years, visitors have learned about Sally Hemings on tours of Monticello. Now, for the first time, her story will have a dedicated physical space on the mountaintop.

“It represents a different chapter in public history at Monticello,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and professor of history at Harvard University. “It will have a ripple effect on the way people think about slavery on the mountain overall and that’s actually very exciting.”

To commemorate the occasion and celebrate 25 years of the Getting Word Oral History Project, Monticello is hosting a free public event and a gathering for descendants of enslaved families. The gathering is expected to be the largest reunion of descendants of enslaved families in modern history.

The Look Closer opening event will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham, violinist Karen Briggs, patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, national policy analyst Melody Barnes, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a rare version of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln and generously loaned by David M. Rubenstein. It will be on view in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center from June 11 through July 11, 2018.

London Art Week, Summer 2018 / Launch of Tomasso XXV

Posted in Art Market, books, museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

From London Art Week:

London Art Week, Summer 2018
28 June — 6 July 2018

London Art Week is a twice-yearly event, offering the best of pre-contemporary art in London’s traditional fine art district. From Ancient sculptures to Old Master drawings and post-Impressionist paintings, London Art Week offers visitors the chance to see, and buy, extraordinary works. For seasoned collectors as well as those simply curious to learn more about art, London Art Week dealers are always on hand and delighted to share their knowledge and expertise. Talks and events are scheduled throughout the week, delivered by some of the UK’s most distinguished art historians and curators. There is no tent: visitors have the luxury of discovering masterpieces within our beautiful gallery spaces, all situated within walking distance.

From the press release for Tomasso Brothers Fine Art:

Catalogue Launch of Tomasso XXV: A Celebration of Notable Sales
Tomasso Brothers, London, 28 June — 6 July 2018

For the summer edition of London Art Week 2018, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is proud to present a new publication, Tomasso XXV, a celebratory catalogue marking the many notable sales made in 25 years of activity. London Art Week runs from 29 June to 6 July 2018, and copies will be available at Marquis House, 67 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, the London gallery of Tomasso Brothers.

The catalogue features more than 50 works ranging from bronze sculptures to oil paintings, and dating from antiquity to the late Neoclassical periods, demonstrating the breadth and quality of works sold by Tomasso Brothers to museums and private collectors the world over. Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is recognised internationally for specializing in important European sculpture, thus works in wood, terracotta, marble, and bronze feature prominently; however, Dino and Raffaello Tomasso are also passionate about fields such as Old Master paintings and objets d’art, represented here by fabulous examples.

The historic sales illustrated in the catalogue range from distinctive sketches, such as Joseph Nollekens’s (1737–1823) terracotta rendering of a pensiero of Eve Bewailing the Death of Abel, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to rare bronzes, such as the Pacing Bull from a ‘Rape of Europa’ group, executed in Padua around 1520–25, re-united with its original figure of Europa thanks to Tomasso Brothers, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and from the powerful, such as the triumphant Julius Caesar carved in limewood by Giambologna (1529–1608), a statuette now known to be not only the earliest recorded work by the master but also the only surviving sculpture that he executed in wood (today in a private collection, Antwerp), to the intimate, such as Nymph Entering a Bath by Richard James Wyatt (1795–1850) one of the foremost British heirs of Canova, which sold last year from Tomasso Brothers’ Canova and his Legacy exhibition to the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Other highlights in the catalogue are a pair of portraits by the master of miniatures Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) depicting Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788) and Prince Henry Benedict Stuart (1725–1807) which, subsequent to their presentation and sale (to a private collection, Germany) by Tomasso Brothers at TEFAF 2015, were shown in the Liotard exhibition at London’s Royal Academy, 2015/2016; a white marble Farnese type bust of Emperor Caracalla by Joseph Claus (1718–1788), a milestone in the development of early Neoclassicism in Rome and a signature work by one of the most accomplished German sculptors of the eighteenth century, now with the Saint Louis Art Museum; and a high-relief, boxwood panel by Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721), a magnificent demonstration of sculptural bravura on a reduced scale and one of the earliest known works by Gibbons, who is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest woodcarver. As attested by the presence of the coat of arms of the Barwick family from Yorkshire, which is visible on a harp in the foreground, the panel, likely carved in York (where Gibbons trained under John Etty after arriving from Rotterdam around 1667) now resides at Fairfax House Museum, York, United Kingdom.

The catalogue also illustrates some major rediscoveries by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, including The Triumph of Autumn by Jacob Hoefnagel (1573–1632/35), an exquisite oil on copper, signed and dated 1605, painted in Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), and The Death of Saint Peter Martyr by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (c.1480–c.1548), a protagonist of Venetian Renaissance painting, renowned for the hushed brilliance of his palette and uniquely atmospheric quality of his compositions, now in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bilbao Acquires Paret’s ‘Triumph of Love over War’

Posted in museums by Editor on May 31, 2018

Luis Paret y Alcázar, The Triumph of Love over War (Mars), 1784, oil on canvas, 82 × 160 cm (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum). One of a pair of lunettes, this latest acquisition is reunited with its pendant, which entered the museum’s collection in 1999.

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Press release (29 May 2018) from the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum:

The collector Alicia Koplowitz has donated a painting by Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid, 1746–1799) to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. It will be presented to the public within the context of the exhibition 110 Works 110 Years as a tribute to the generosity and philanthropic spirit of the individuals whose donations have contributed over the years to the creation and growth of the collection.

With this donation the museum has increased its already outstanding representation of the artist’s work, comprising eight paintings: The Divine Shepherd (1782), View of Bermeo (1783), The Triumph of Love over War (two lunettes forming a pair) (1784), View of El Arenal in Bilbao (1783–84), Scene with Villagers (fragment) (1786), View of Fuenterrabía (fragment) (1786), and The Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ and Saint James the Greater (1786).

These works by Paret entered the collection by different means: through the founding donations made by the City Council of Bilbao (The Divine Shepherd and The Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ and Saint James the Greater in 1913); acquisitions made by the museum (View of Fuenterrabía in 1986 and The Triumph of Love over War in 1999); donations (Scene with Villagers donated by Plácido Arango in 1996—which has been reunited with the other fragment of the same composition, View of Fuenterrabía—and the present donation by Alicia Koplowitz); the donation in lieu of tax by BBVA presented to the museum by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia (View of El Arenal in Bilbao in 1996); and the acquisition made with funding from BBK and from contributions by the Friends of the Museum (View of Bermeo in 2017).

Luis Paret y Alcázar lived in Bilbao between 1779 and 1789 during part of his exile ordered by Charles III as a consequence of his participation in the licentious lifestyle of the King’s younger brother, the Infante don Luis de Borbón. During that time Paret produced a body of mature work that included religious commissions, allegorical compositions, and the series of views of Cantabrian ports, which began with View of Bermeo (1783)—acquired by the museum in December 2017—and continued from 1786 with a commission from Charles III.

Luis Paret y Alcázar, The Triumph of Love over War (Venus), 1784, oil on canvas, 82 × 160 cm (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum).

This period saw the execution of The Triumph of Love over War, which now enters the museum as a donation and will once again form a pair with another work of the same title and characteristics. Both were previously in a private English collection. The one that entered the museum first was sold on the art market in the late 1990s, shortly after which it was acquired by the museum. In 2017 its pendant, now donated by Alicia Koplowitz, went on the market. The two lunettes are now reunited after two decades, “in one of those happy coincidences that are rare in the museum world” in the words of Manuela Mena in the book published by the museum to mark this donation.

The two paintings are unusual within Paret’s output due to their format and dimensions (two lunette-shaped canvases each measuring approximately 81 × 160 cm), which are notably different to his easel paintings, all of small size. The recent cleaning undertaken in the museum’s Conservation and Restoration Department has revealed a grey strip added around all sides of the canvas in a previous restoration. It would seem that it was probably added when the lunettes were separated from their first location as it seems likely that they were originally set into the wall in a room within white stucco frames with decorative gilt motifs in the 18th-century taste.

The pictorial technique also differs from that of the artist’s small, Rococo-style paintings which are characterised by a delicate, transparent brushstroke and an emphasis on detail. Here Paret’s handling is much freer and more energetic, undoubtedly because the lunettes were conceived to be hung high up, facing each other and with a di sotto in sù (from below to above) perspective. The use of similar tonalities and pictorial devices in the two works (such as the modelling of the volumes through small brushstrokes) confirms that they were executed at the same time, were intended for the same space, and thus had a complementary iconographic programme. With regard to their subject matter, both compositions depict infant nudes framed by garlands of flowers and on the point of undertaking actions that will connect them: the one on the right is about to let loose a dove which will ‘fly’ towards the sleeping boy in the lunette on the left. On waking, he in turn will ‘shoot’ his arrow with three roses strung on it. The skin colour and more decorous pose of the first figure suggests that she is a depiction of the infant Venus wearing a laurel wreath as a symbol of the triumph of Love over Mars, represented by the boy in the other lunette.

More information is available in this article:

Manuela B. Mena Marqués, “The Triumph of Love,” online available at http://www.museobilbao.com/pro/uploads/salas_lecturas/archivo_in-81.pdf. Original text in Spanish in Luis Paret y Alcázar [1746–1799]: El triunfo del Amor sobre la Guerra: Donación Alicia Koplowitz (Bilbao: Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa = Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018), pp. 6–33.

The Clark Acquires Lethière’s ‘Brutus Condemning His Sons’

Posted in museums by Editor on May 24, 2018

Guillaume Guillon Lethière, Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, 1788, oil on canvas, 23 × 39 inches
(Williamstown: The Clark Art Institute)

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Press release (22 May 2018) from The Clark:

The Clark Art Institute today announced the recent acquisition of Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, an important early work by neoclassical French artist Guillaume Guillon Lethière (1760–1832), marking a significant addition to its permanent collection.

Completed in 1788 when Lethière was at the French Academy in Rome, and subsequently displayed at the Salons of 1795 and 1801, the painting depicts a dramatic scene featuring the decapitation of one of the sons of Lucius Junius Brutus. Brutus led the 509 BC revolt to overthrow the last king of Rome and establish the Roman Republic, swearing a sacred oath before its citizens that Rome would never again be subject to the rule of a king. When his two sons were later discovered to be among the conspirators attempting to restore the monarchy, Brutus demonstrated his commitment to the Republic by ordering and then witnessing the execution of his own children. Painted before the onslaught of the French Revolution, Lethière’s composition is eerily prescient in its moralizing message and its brutal iconography. Brutus’s willingness to prioritize the interests of his country above his own made him an exemplar of Republican duty and stoicism. The tale inspired Voltaire and other leaders of the French Enlightenment to establish Brutus as a foundational hero of the French Republic. Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death is the first of two paintings on the subject executed by Lethière. The second version is in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

“We are truly thrilled to add this magnificent painting to our permanent collection,” said Olivier Meslay, the Hardymon Director of the Clark. “This is Guillaume Guillon Lethière’s masterpiece, and it is a transformative moment for our collection. Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death is important both for its masterful execution and for its place in the canon of world and art history. It is an iconic and prophetic painting that struck a chord with the French public at a moment when history’s role in understanding and interpreting contemporary issues was perhaps never more instructive or imperative.”

The painting has been in private hands for more than two centuries. A preparatory drawing by Lethière (ca. 1788) and a stipple engraving dated 1794 by Pierre Charles Coqueret (Paris 1761–1832) after Lethière’s painting were also acquired. The purchase, made at auction, was approved by the Clark’s Board of Trustees according to the Institute’s acquisitions policies, and funded through a special art acquisition fund.

Noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, said of the acquisition, “I was delighted to hear that the Clark has acquired an important painting by Guillaume Guillon Lethière, who is widely recognized as the first major French artist of African descent. His celebration as an artist of great skill and significance is long past due.” Gates edits The Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University Press and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research) along with David Bindman, professor emeritus of art history at University College London. The landmark research project and publication series is devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art. A synopsis of Lethière’s career is featured in Vol. 3.3 of the publication.

“The significance of this painting cannot be overstated,” said Esther Bell, the Clark’s Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture. “Completed early in Lethière’s career, this is an icon of French painting and French history. By 1788, the twenty-eight-year-old Lethière was already in full command of his talent. Lethiere likely could not have imagined it at the time, but his painting would be publicly exhibited during the height of the French Revolution, and would inspire his contemporaries to contemplate the democratic principles at the heart of their tumultuous society. Like his contemporary, Jacques-Louis David, Lethière played a critical role in promoting the artistic tenets of the Enlightenment.”

Bell led the Clark’s effort in pursuing the acquisition of the Lethière painting and related works on paper.

“It is an exhilarating moment for the Clark,” Bell noted. “I look forward to installing the Lethière in our galleries and sharing the story of this painting and this important artist with our visitors.”

While the unlined painting is “in remarkably good condition,” Bell said the objects will undergo examination and conservation before going on view in the Clark’s galleries later this year.

Future programmatic plans include an exhibition related to Lethière’s work and an introductory lecture by Bell when the painting goes on view in the Clark’s galleries.

About Guillaume Guillon Lethière

The life and career of Guillaume Guillon Lethière (1760–1832) are extraordinary. Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe, he was the son of Pierre Guillon, a French government official, and Marie-Françoise Pepayë, an emancipated African slave. He was called “Le Thière,” a reference to his status as his father’s third illegitimate child. Lethière moved to France with his father at the age of fourteen, studying with Jean-Baptiste Descamps in Rouen for three years before entering the studio of Gabriel-François Doyen at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris. He submitted works for the Prix de Rome in 1784 and 1786 and secured a Roman pension in 1786.

Lethière remained in Rome until 1791 before returning to Paris, where he opened a studio that competed with that of Jacques-Louis David. His ethnicity caused Lethière’s contemporaries to refer to him as a “man of color” and “l’Americain.” Napoleon’s brother Lucien Bonaparte was his close supporter, and he was rumored to have fathered an illegitimate child with Lethière’s wife while on a group trip to Spain in 1801. On his return to Paris, Lethière killed a soldier during a dispute, and as a result, his studio was closed by government officials. Despite this, Lucien Bonaparte interceded on the artist’s behalf, helping him to secure an appointment as the Director of the Académie de France in Rome at the Villa Medici. Pensionnaires at the academy during Lethière’s tenure as director from 1807–1814 included Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Merry-Joseph Blondel, and David d’Angers, among others. During this time, Ingres sketched Lethière (Morgan Library & Museum) as well as members of his family, as evidenced in the beautiful sheet, Madame Guillaume Guillon Lethière and her son Lucien Lethière (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

With the Bourbon Restoration, Lethière lost his position as director in Rome and returned to Paris, where he took on private students. After initially being rejected—likely on the basis of either his race or his political alignments—Lethière was admitted to the Institut de France in 1818. He was awarded the Légion d’honneur in the same year. In 1819, he became a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he worked until his death. His studio included several students from Guadeloupe, notably Jean-Baptiste Gibert and Benjamin Rolland. Despite living the majority of his life in France, Lethière’s strong identification with his place of birth never diminished.

In 1822 Lethière sent a monumental canvas measuring thirteen by ten feet, Oath of the Ancestors, as a gift to the Haitian people commemorating the nation’s independence and resistance to colonization. The painting represents the alliance of a black officer and a slave leader standing under God; it hung in the cathedral of Port-au-Prince until it was moved to the presidential residence. Although the painting sustained significant damage as a result of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, it has since been restored and is one of Haiti’s most celebrated cultural assets. Lethière signed this work with his name and dual-national identities, noting both his birthplace as Guadeloupe and his then-current residence in Paris.

Lethière, along with Jacques-Louis David and Jean Germain Drouais, ranks as one of the most important neoclassical artists of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.

About the Acquisition

The Clark’s acquisition includes three works:

Guillaume Guillon Lethière (Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe 1760–1832 Paris)
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, 1788
Oil on canvas
23 × 39 inches (59.4 × 99.1 cm)

Guillaume Guillon Lethière (Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe 1760–1832 Paris)
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, c. 1788
Black chalk, brush with brown and gray washes
14 × 24.5 inches

Pierre Charles Coqueret (Paris 1761–1832) after Guillaume Lethière
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death
Stipple engraving on laid paper, 1794
Image: 22.5 × 39 inches, Sheet: 27 × 42.5 inches

Provenance
Raymond collection, 1801
Private collection, Paris, from whom acquired by the present owner

Newly Redeveloped RA Campus Opens on 19 May 2018

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on April 27, 2018

From the press release:

The Royal Academy of Arts, the world’s foremost artist and architect-led institution, will open its new campus to the public on Saturday 19 May 2018 as part of the celebrations of its 250th anniversary year. Following a transformational redevelopment, designed by internationally- acclaimed architect Sir David Chipperfield CBE RA and supported by the National Lottery, the new Royal Academy will open up and reveal more of the elements that make the RA unique—sharing with the public historic treasures from its Collection, the work of its Royal Academicians and the Royal Academy Schools, alongside its world-class exhibitions programme.

One of the most significant outcomes of the redevelopment is the link between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, uniting the two-acre campus. This will provide 70% more space than the RA’s original Burlington House footprint, enabling the RA to expand its exhibition programme and to create new and free displays of art and architecture across the campus for visitors year-round. From dedicated galleries to surprising interventions, a dynamic series of changing exhibits and installations will present the living heritage of the Royal Academy; exploring its foundation and history in training artists as well as showcasing contemporary works by Royal Academicians and students at the RA Schools. To animate the displays, a new range of free tours, taster talks and object handling stations will be available to visitors.

Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE (19 May — 12 August 2018) will inaugurate the new Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in Burlington Gardens. With Art Fund support, the exhibition is part of an unprecedented collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London. It will showcase the internationally-renowned visual artist and Royal Academician Tacita Dean who will explore the genre of landscape in its broadest sense: intimate collections of natural found objects, a mountainous blackboard drawing and a major new, two screen 35mm film installation, Antigone, that uses multiple exposures to combine places, people and seasons into the single cinematographic frame. Antigone was funded in part through the support of the Laurenz Foundation-Schaulager and its founder Maja Oeri; and VIA Art Fund.

The magnificent new Royal Academy Collection Gallery will present The Making of an Artist: The Great Tradition highlighting works from the RA Collection, including the Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo and the RA’s almost full-size sixteenth-century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, along with paintings by Reynolds, Kauffman, Thornhill, Constable, Gainsborough, and Turner. Selected by the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun, it will focus on the first sixty years of the RA, juxtaposing masterpieces from the RA’s teaching collection with Diploma Works by past Royal Academicians. The display of the RA Collection has been supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The Architecture Studio within The Dorfman Senate Rooms will provide a creative space that invites audience engagement with innovative and critical ideas on architecture and its intersection with the arts. It will open with Invisible Landscapes (19 May 2018 — March 2019), explored in three ‘Acts’ of immersive interventions looking at the impact and future of technology in people’s environments. In contrast, recently conserved historical architectural casts on display in The Dorfman Architecture Court will convey the history of teaching architecture: the tradition of learning to draw from casts of buildings.

Located at the entrance to the Weston Bridge, which connects Burlington Gardens into Burlington House, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery will stage site-specific installations by Royal Academicians. The first major work will be Tips for a Good Life by Bob and Roberta Smith RA (September 2018 – September 2019), on the subject of gender in the history of the RA.

Moving through to Burlington House, visitors will arrive at the Weston Studio. Located within the heart of the Royal Academy Schools, the Weston Studio will bring the ethos and thinking of the RA Schools’ postgraduate programme to a changing contemporary series of two displays a year and projects developed by students and graduates. It will open with a group exhibition of works by first year students, revealing their rich use of subjects, approaches, methods, and materials.

Going back in time, The Vaults will exhibit The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw a formidable selection of plaster casts from the early years of the RA Schools displayed together with works on paper from the RA’s teaching collection, illustrating the RA’s role in the teaching of art since the RA Schools’ foundation in 1769. Works will include anatomical casts and casts of antique sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo and Farnese Hercules, juxtaposed with recent works on related themes by RA Schools graduates. Works on paper include a special display From the Child to the President by John Everett Millais PRA, who aged 11 started in the RA Schools where he was known as ‘The Child’.

Further interventions in Burlington House will include:
• An impressive installation of three dimensional details from buildings designed by current architect Academicians, curated by Spencer de Grey RA, which will be displayed across a three-story vertical wall, an affirmation of British architecture both today and in the future.
• Yinka Shonibare’s Cheeky Little Astronomer, 2013, which will take pride of place in the sculpture niche outside the Grand Café.
An Allegory of Painting: A Project by Sarah Pickstone, which will feature two new wall and ceiling paintings by Sarah Pickstone (September 2018 – September 2019). A graduate of the RA Schools, she will celebrate the work of Angelica Kauffman RA, one of the two female founding members of the Academy.
• Already open to the public, Richard Deacon RA Selects presents his own selection of sculptures by Royal Academicians from the RA Collection, spanning over 200 years.

Alongside the transformation of the RA’s physical space, the first phase of a new online platform has launched to open up the RA Collection to be more accessible to audiences worldwide. Comprising paintings, sculptures, artists’ letters and books from the RA Collection, over 10,000 items have been newly digitised with the support of the National Lottery. The RA worked with Fabrique, the award-winning designers of the Rijksmuseum’s website.