Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Stadel Museum will Show the First Monographic Exhibition on Sandro Botticelli


Sandro Botticelli (1444/45-1510), Idealized Portrait of a Lady, ca. 1480. Mixed technique on poplar, 82 x 54 cm. Frankfurt, Städel Museum. Photo: Städel Museum

Sandro Botticelli (1444/45-1510), Minerva and the Centaur, 1480 - 1482, canvas, 207 x 148 cm. Florenz, Uffizien. Photo: Uffizien, Florenz.

FRANKFURT.- The Städel Museum will show the first monographic exhibition on Sandro Botticelli (1444/45–1510) in the German-speaking world from 13 November 2009 to 28 February 2010. Taking the artist’s monumental Idealized Portrait of a Lady, one of the Städel Museum collection’s highlights, as its starting point, the exhibition presents numerous works from all productive periods of this great master of the Renaissance in Italy about 500 years after his day of death (17 May 1510). The exhibition opens with portraits and allegorical paintings that illustrate the degree of sophistication with which Botticelli drew on this highly developed genre and enriched it with new impulses. While the second chapter centers on his famous mythological representations of goddesses and heroines of virtue, the third part is dedicated to his abundant religious oeuvre. With a total of more than forty works by Botticelli and his workshop, the show presents a comprehensive selection of his work surviving worldwide. Forty further exhibits, among them works by such contemporaries as Andrea del Verrocchio, Filippino Lippi, and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, will allow to understand Botticelli’s precious creations in the historical context of their genesis. The presentation is supported by outstanding loans from the most important collections of paintings in Europe and the United States. These include the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery London, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, and the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden, as well as the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Sandro Botticelli’s painting has become a landmark of Italian Renaissance. The delicate beauty, elegant grace, and unique charm of his frequently melancholic figures make his work the epitome of Florentine painting in the Golden Age of Medici rule under Lorenzo the Magnificent. Initially trained as a goldsmith and then apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi, Sandro Botticelli soon ranked among the most successful painters in Florence in the second half of the quattrocento next to Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, and the Pollaiuolo brothers. From 1470 on, he received prestigious public commissions and established himself as a painter of large altarpieces. Throughout his life, Botticelli was in the ruling Medici family’s and their supporters’ good graces. Fulfilling their wishes for innovative decorative paintings, the master could not only rely on his personal knowledge of Florentine traditions and of ancient art, but also on definite suggestions and concepts from the circle of humanists gathered around Lorenzo de’ Medici. Held in equally high esteem as both a panel and a fresco painter, Botticelli enjoyed a high standing beyond his native Florence and was thus one of the artists summoned to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Pope Sixtus IV in 1481. It was particularly his much-discussed late work that brought out the characteristic features of his original style in an extreme manner. Guided by the art of drawing – the exhibition includes an outstanding selection of preparatory sketches – Botticelli followed his penchant for presenting his figures with sharp contours, strong movements, and abundant gestures, grounding his compositions on textures of lines and surfaces rather than on spaces and volumes. In this respect, his painting had already stood out against his competitors’ works and current theoretical demands in his early years. This is one of the reasons why art-historical research, which has devoted a vast number of major monographs and work studies to Botticelli since the beginnings of the twentieth century, still assigns a special position to the artist without fail.

The starting point and center of the cross-genre exhibition is provided by a main work from the collection of the Städel Museum not only very well known in Frankfurt: the master’s idealized portrait of a young lady, who is probably to be identified with Simonetta Vespucci, the beloved jousting tournament lady of Lorenzo’s brother Giuliano de’ Medici. This portrait is less aimed at a true-to-life likeness of the subject than at the ideal of a woman characterized by perfect beauty and equally perfect virtuousness, an ideal also reflected in the poetry of that time. Such an ideal defines itself not least through its rapport with antiquity: thus, the beautiful female wears a piece of jewelry round her neck which is obviously based on an ancient cameo showing Apollo and Marsyas, which will also be on display in the exhibition. In the Städel Museum, Botticelli’s famous portrait of Giuliano from the National Gallery of Art in Washington will offer itself for comparison with his beloved Simonetta’s likeness. Both paintings make up the center of the first part of the presentation, which is devoted to Botticelli’s art of portraiture and, drawing on prominent examples, illustrates the interplay between social norm and artistic form as well as the different genre conventions of the male and the female portrait.

The second chapter of the exhibition deals with Botticelli’s mythological pictures, which number among the artist’s most original creations. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which safeguards the most comprehensive and significant collection of works by the artist in the world, supports the exhibition in Frankfurt with one of its most popular works among others loans: the famous Pallas and the Centaur, one of Botticelli’s monumental mythological paintings, to be seen in the context of Medicean self-presentation. Together with Botticelli’s Primavera, it once adorned the walls of a bedchamber in a Florentine palace owned by the family of bankers. We see Pallas taming the wild centaur indulging in his passions through her wisdom and virtue. The control and cultivation of emotions was a central issue in ancient philosophy and – combined with Christian thought – of the Renaissance, too; among the painters of the time, Botticelli offered himself as a congenial interpreter for such subjects. The political dimension and the reference to the patron family are symbolically present in the form of two intertwined diamond rings on Pallas’s gown, which were an emblem of the Medici family. Another great female figure featuring in the Florentine artist’s oeuvre is the goddess Venus. His life-size Venus from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin is a repetition of the central figure of (the unloanable) Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery, which he isolated from the context of the scene and set off against a black background. This work is one of the first monumental nudes of postancient painting.

The third and last section of the exhibition is devoted to Botticelli’s religious pictures. Next to his portraits and mythological works, Botticelli has owed his continuing fame to his Madonnas. According to theological thinking, Mary stands out as the ideal woman among the saints: she is the most virtuous and the most beautiful female, the bride of the Song of Songs. Besides many other works spanning from Botticelli’s earliest works still revealing the influence of his teacher Fra Filippo Lippi to examples of his late style, the exhibition in Frankfurt shows one of the artist’s most beautiful Madonnas: The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child. The Madonna’s physiognomy of this painting from the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, whose brilliant colorfulness has only been uncovered through restorative measures some years ago, is rendered in the vein of the same female model which the painter developed for his idealized portraits and pictures of ancient goddesses. This chapter also includes a number of narrative pictures, such as a removed Annunciation fresco once to be found in the vestibule of the hospital of San Martino alla Scala in Florence and preserved in the Uffizi Gallery today. Not only the enormous size of the fresco (243 x 550 cm), but also its qualities as a painting testify to Botticelli’s extraordinary importance in this medium. Four panels depicting scenes from the life of St. Zenobius, an early bishop and patron of Florence, offer a further highlight, with which the exhibition ends. Usually scattered to museums in London, Dresden, and New York, they have been brought together for the first time in Frankfurt again. Ranking not only among his most significant late works, but also among his very last, the panels are to be considered as Botticelli’s legacy as an artist

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tiffany Exhibition Coming to VMFA in May Opens at Musée du Luxembourg in Paris


Image showing three lamps made by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the exhibition “Tiffany: Color and Light” which opened at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, France

VMFA Director Alex Nyerges (left) chats at the Musée du Luxembourg with Robin Nicholson, VMFA's deputy director for exhibitions, and Anna Eschatasse, executive assistant for special exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The three attended today's preview in Paris of the show of Louis Comfort Tiffany works that will be on view at VMFA in May. Photo: Jay Paul)

PARIS.- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director Alex Nyerges, in Paris today for a preview of one of the most significant exhibitions ever mounted of works by the master of American glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany, called the show “dazzling.”

“Here in Paris, the City of Light, the color and light of these Tiffany masterworks are spectacularly appropriate,” Nyerges said.

The exhibition opens to the public at the Musée du Luxembourg Wednesday, Sept. 16, and continues through Jan. 10. It will then travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a showing from Feb. 11 to May 2.

The American première of “Tiffany: Color and Light” will be at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond May 29. VMFA will be the only American museum to show the exhibition, which will continue in Richmond through Aug. 15.

“Tiffany: Color and Light” will be the first major exhibition to be shown at VMFA after the grand opening May 1 of the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing, now under construction.

“The Tiffany exhibition will be the first of many international exhibitions in the expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” Nyerges said at the Paris preview.

When the museum reopens, “gallery space will be 50 percent larger and special-exhibition space will double,” he said. “We will be able to accommodate much larger and more extensive special exhibitions than ever before in our history,” he said.

The expansion will add some 165,000 square feet to VMFA's previously existing 380,000 square feet.

“The Tiffany exhibition will occupy 8,500 square feet of the 12,000 square feet of special-exhibition space in the new wing,” he said.

Conceived by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and organized in collaboration with VMFA and the Musée du Luxembourg, “Tiffany: Color and Light” celebrates the work of the renowned designer who achieved original and spectacular effects in hand-blown glass vessels, leaded glass windows and lamps, and other decorative objects.

“Our own large treasure of works by Tiffany makes Richmond an ideal venue, and we are delighted to have been able to lend 14 important works to the show,” Nyerges said.

The exhibition’s approximately 170 objects will include blown-glass vessels; lamps; leaded-glass windows; and decorative objects such as mosaics, bronzes and jewelry; along with paintings, watercolors, architectural elements and silver. Four of the windows, created for the Erskine and American United Church in Montreal, have never before been shown in the United States.

Tiffany (1848-1933) took advantage of the new technology of electric lighting to reveal the jewel-like hues and sparkle of his leaded-glass lampshades. The wide popularity of his lamps made Tiffany’s a household name.

“Visitors to the exhibition will see first-hand evidence of Tiffany’s love of exoticism, rich ornament, fine craftsmanship, and the abstract qualities of color that placed him squarely in many of the artistic movements of his time, from Arts and Crafts and the American Aesthetic Movement to Art Nouveau and Symbolism,” says Barry Shifman, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Decorative Arts from 1890 to the Present.

The exhibition’s curators are Rosalind Pepall, senior curator of decorative arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, who is the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and Martin Eidelberg, professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nassau County Museum of Art to Present Norman Rockwell: American Imagist


Norman Rockwell, Breakfast Table Political Argument (oil study) 1948, oil on acetate on board, 10 1/4" x 11", signed lower right and inscribed, "To Herb Herrick, Sincerely, Norman Rockwell" Saturday Evening Post cover oil study, October 30, 1948, study for America, illus 134, study for LNM #C445 © 2009 National Museum of American Illustration™

ROSLYN HARBOR, NY.- “I paint life as I would like it to be,” said the great illustrator Norman Rockwell. Seeing himself as a storyteller, Rockwell created the images that defined America and Americans, in this country and abroad. His enormous impact was achieved through the 321 covers he created for Saturday Evening Post from 1916 to 1963, including his famous Four Freedoms series of patriotic wartime paintings.

Norman Rockwell: American Imagist, opening at Nassau County Museum of Art (NCMA) on Sunday, September 20, 2009 and remaining on view through Sunday, January 3, 2010, is organized by American Illustrators Gallery, New York City and The National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, Rhode Island. The exhibition is curated for NCMA by Constance Schwartz and Franklin Hill Perrell and includes approximately 300 Saturday Evening Post covers and about 48 Rockwell paintings. The exhibition is sponsored by Sterling Glen Senior Living and David Lerner Associates with support from Wachovia Bank and Wells Fargo and Company, the New York State Council on the Arts and Arizona Beverages.

A poet of the American heartland, Norman Rockwell was born 115 years ago in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He demonstrated drawing talent from his earliest years, sketching as literary works were read to him aloud. While in high school, he studied at the Chase School of Fine and Applied Art. Leaving school before graduation, he went on to attend the National Academy of Design, later transferring to the Art Students League. His earliest commission, at the age of 16, was for Christmas cards. He was then retained to illustrate a series of children’s books. Rockwell became the art director for Boy’s Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. His association with the Boy Scouts was to continue for a half century. Rockwell began freelancing his services to magazines, among them Life, Literary Digest and Country Digest. At 22, he began his legendary association with The Saturday Evening Post, the most prestigious magazine of that era. Rockwell’s first work for the Post was Mother’s Day Off which ran on the May 20, 1916 cover. From then, until 1963, he went on to produce 321 Post covers. It was these illustrations that came to be his greatest legacy.