At the Getty: The Grand Manner on Paper

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 16, 2010

Press release from the Getty:

Printing the Grand Manner: Charles Le Brun and Monumental Prints in the Age of Louis XIV
The Getty Research Institute at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, 18 May — 17 October 2010

Gérard Edelinck (1640–1707), after Charles Le Brun (1619–1690), "Queens of Persia at the Feet of Alexander from the Battles of Alexander," ca. 1675 Etching and engraving 26 9/16 x 35 5/16 in. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California (2003.PR.42)

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Printing the Grand Manner: Charles Le Brun and Monumental Prints in the Age of Louis XIV explores a little-known facet of late 17th-century reproductive engravings. The exhibition examines the prints’ rich vocabulary and illuminates the context in which they were made between the mid-1660s and the mid-1680s. While it focuses on the relationship between Charles Le Brun (French, 1619–90) and the printmakers who reproduced his compositions, the exhibition also interprets the prints and their inscriptions in light of Le Brun’s ambitions and struggles as a court painter, designer, and print publisher in the highly competitive atmosphere surrounding Louis XIV.

Catalogue by Louis Marchesano and Christian Michel (Getty Research Institute, 2010) ISBN: 978-0892369805, $50

The works in this exhibition and related catalog reproduce Le Brun’s narrative compositions in the Grand Manner, the genre in which a heroic protagonist engages in a morally significant action—a battle to be won, a victory to be celebrated, or a vice to be avoided. By disseminating these subjects in printed form, Le Brun presented to both collectors and artists his mastery of the most complex type of art. In turn, the quality and size of these prints allowed him to demonstrate the unprecedented authority over the fine arts in France.

The eleven large prints featured in Printing the Grand Manner were clearly intended to evoke the grandeur of Le Brun’s large-scale paintings and tapestry designs that illustrate events from the exemplary lives of ancient rulers such as Alexander the Great and Constantine the Great.  A prodigious artist and designer, now best known for his work at Versailles, Le Brun was Louis XIV’s principal painter, leader of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, and director of the huge royal manufactory at the Hôtel des Gobelins, the integrated workshops where hundreds of artists and craftsmen produced the fine objects that gave the age of Louis XIV its veneer of splendor and grandeur.

Gérard Edelinck (1640–1707), after Charles Le Brun (1619–1690), "Queens of Persia at the Feet of Alexander from the Battles of Alexander," detail, ca. 1675

“Le Brun used prints strategically to promote his agenda. Naturally, he wanted the best printmakers to reproduce his compositions and to disseminate them in the best possible light. As a painter and leader of the arts who experienced the power of prints in his own career, he was able to encourage the development of printmaking in France,” says Louis Marchesano, the Getty Research Institute’s curator of prints and drawings. “In retrospect, we know Le Brun’s own interventions in the field of prints paid off because the material and stylistic excellence of the large prints whet the appetites of collectors and critics well into the 19th-century.”

Le Brun was most successful at the height of his power in the 1670s, when he oversaw the publication of the Battles of Alexander, a suite of five images comprising his Persian and Indian campaigns. With his reputation and authority at stake, he convinced the Crown to spare no expense on the quality of the paper and the size of the impressions. Pulled from 15 copper plates, large printed sheets had to be assembled into a suite of five separate images. The Alexander suite was made by two of the best artists at Le Brun’s disposal, Gérard Edelinck and Gérard Audran. Showcasing Audran’s astonishing mixed etching and engraving technique, the four prints by him were judged to be the epitome of printmaking, in part because they appeared to improve upon Le Brun’s original paintings, a rather unusual judgment in favor of prints. (more…)

Drawings at the Getty

Posted in books, exhibitions by Editor on October 14, 2009

From the Getty’s website:

Capturing Nature’s Beauty: Three Centuries of French Landscapes

Getty Center, Los Angeles, 28 July – 1 November 2009


Édouard Kopp, exhibition catalogue (Getty, 2009) $19.95

This selection of over 40 drawings from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute highlights key moments in the French landscape tradition, from its emergence in the 1600s to its preeminence in the 1800s. The exhibition showcases drawings by some of the masters of the genre, including Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent van Gogh. Together these works reveal a tension between a passion for the real and the quest for an ideal. They demonstrate different facets of the relationship between the artist and the land: from simple record to creative transformation, if not pure invention. . . .


Fragonard, "Ruins of an Imperial Palace," 1759

Jean-Honoré Fragonard made this accomplished drawing while he was a student at the French Academy in Rome. The curriculum was relatively unusual because it actively promoted the practice of sketching outdoors, a sign of landscape’s increasingly elevated status as an artistic genre. In this view of the Palatine Hill as seen from the Roman Forum, the artist adopted a low viewpoint and a wide angle that allowed him to create a bold, forceful composition. Using red chalk, he brilliantly rendered the complex formal interaction between buildings and nature.


Boissieu, "Château Galliard," 1796

Jean-Jacques de Boissieu is best known for his large and delicately washed picturesque views. A trip to Italy inspired his practice of illuminating his compositions with bright sunlight. Yet his palette—dominated by grays—and meticulous attention to detail are reminiscent of earlier Dutch landscape drawings. This style enabled de Boissieu to work quite independently from the artistic trends of his time, exemplified by the works of Fragonard and Hubert Robert. The draftsman carefully framed his motif: an abandoned fortified house in Lyon, his native city, perched on a craggy hill and overgrown by nature. While capturing the atmosphere of the locale, Boissieu rendered the variety of textures with a compelling sense of materiality.

Next Year’s Getty Theme — ‘Display’ Once More

Posted in fellowships, opportunities by Editor on October 11, 2009

Scholars in Residence Applications for the Getty — Due 1 November

‘The Display of Art’ continues as the theme for the Getty Research Institute from 2009–2010 into 2010–2011.

The Getty Research Institute seeks applications from established researchers as well as those at the pre- and postdoctoral levels who are interested in questions bearing upon ‘The Display of Art’ and wish to be in residence at the Getty Research Institute or Getty Villa during the 2010–2011 academic year.

The Display of Art

Art and display are inseparable. When selecting and juxtaposing objects we create narratives, assign meanings, grant relevance, and produce art history. Studying a work of art requires attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts of its display. The display of art will again be at the center of the scholar year, continuing and building on the theme from 2009–2010. Projects may focus on, but are not limited to, the history of museums; display in and of antiquity; private and public modes of display; the display of cultural encounter; display itself as art form; and the links between the display of art and conservation.

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This year’s scholars and fellows include:

Dominique Poulot (Professor of the History of Art at Université Paris I–Panthéon-Sorbonne and senior member of the French Universitary Institute) — Museum Cultures and Experiences in Europe, 1750–1815

Alain Schnapp (Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Université Paris I–Panthéon-Sorbonne) — Towards a Comparative History of Antiquarianism

Tristan Weddigen (Professor of the History of Early Modern Art at the University of Zurich, Switzerland) — The Collection as a Visual History of Art: The Dresden Picture Gallery in the 18th and 19th Century

Mario Epifani (doctorate from the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II) — Neapolitan Paintings in Italian and European Collections between the 17th and 18th Centuries

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