Posts Tagged ‘Italian painting

24
Mar
19

Exhibition: ‘Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

26th January – 31st March 2019

 

Bill Viola. 'Nantes Triptych' 1992

 

Bill Viola (American, b. 1951)
Nantes Triptych (still)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

 

Bill Viola (American, b. 1951)
Nantes Triptych (extract)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio

 

 

Far from heaven

On the surface (and there’s a key word), this exhibition pairs these two artists together as a form of immaculate concept(ion).

“Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists… It [the exhibition] proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter.” (Press release)

At the heart of both artists work is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul, where the use of the body gives shape (through fundamental human experiences and emotions) to spirituality, and where both artists consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality.

One of the successes of the exhibition (when seen from afar) is the undoubted connection across time, space and culture between two human beings investigating what it is to be human: as Viola puts it, an understanding and awareness of “a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” In Viola’s work it is an essence of self reflection, the self reflection in water of the first humans, that recognition of self – that idea of self knowledge that is built into water – and his use of water (and other elements such as fire) as an immersive, nurturing, entombing, womb death environment in many of his video installations, that provides the impetus for his investigation.

But I have a nagging doubt about this pairing.

Viola’s work seems to be of a different order (of being) than that of Michelangelo. Even though Viola’s work connects the viewer to its subject matter through feeling and emotion, these feelings and emotions are viewed from the outside (Man Searching for Immortality / Woman Searching for Eternity). The camera objectifies this theatre of creation for our viewing pleasure. The video installations are performances which seem to be of a different kingdom to me (performance, theatre, spectacle) – whereas Michelangelo’s drawings seem to emanate from within. Not chemical, not organic, but something else which is so deeply embodied that they seem to come close to enlightenment.

How Viola fits into the great catalogue – we can only take in by what he tells us. And in time.

Because this spiritual investigation is mostly seen “through a glass darkly”, sometimes it has a, scent of being, not genuine – sometimes because we are all imperfect artists – but sometimes, through someone like Hilma af Klint, or Hokusai or, in this case, Michelangelo (“Michael angel”) it is much much more transparent… and closer to the surface. Am I making sense?

Sometimes they are about something I may somewhat understand in this lifetime (Viola) and sometimes they are about something that I don’t believe has been “released” to humanity fully. Perhaps a form of internal esoteric knowledge that may eventually be revealed to humanity. A mystery (derived from ‘mystic’ or ‘mysticism’ from the Greek μυω, meaning “to conceal”) which may reveal truths that surpass the powers of natural reason, a truth that transcends the created intellect.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

PS. The poem below has the terror of the sublime. A perfect picture of detachment and very nearly a complete picture of enlightenment. Is the human condition different from all other conditions? – that is the $64,000 question – if you say “no”, then this is a true poem. And of course, from the depths of the soul, who is having this conversation?

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Many thankx to the Royal Academy of Arts for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Is it far to go?

Is it far to go?
A step – no further.
Is it hard to go?
Ask the melting snow,
The eddying feather.

What can I take there?
Not a hank, not a hair.
What shall I leave behind?
Ask the hastening wind,
The fainting star.

Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say,
Ask my song.

Who will say farewell?
The beating bell.
Will anyone miss me?
That I dare not tell –
Quick, Rose, and kiss me.

 

Cecil Day-Lewis

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was appointed poet laureate by Queen Elizabeth II. He was an Irish poet and essayist, and a writer of mystery novels under the pen name of Nicholas Blake. He is the father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The third stanza of this poem serves as the epitaph on his gravestone. “Rose” refers to Rosamond Lehmann, the British novelist who was his lover when he wrote this verse in the 1940’s.

 

This exhibition pairs Bill Viola’s powerful installations with rarely-seen drawings by Michelangelo. Journey through the cycle of life in our immersive and unparalleled show.

Michelangelo is best known for the Sistine Chapel and for his large sculptures. Yet his smaller, more intimate drawings take us closer to the spiritual and emotional power of his work. They were created for his private use, or as gifts of love, and would soon become known as “drawings the likes of which was never seen”.

In 2006, the pioneering video artist Bill Viola saw a collection of these works at Windsor Castle. He was moved by their ability to convey fundamental human experiences and emotions, and by Michelangelo’s use of the body to give shape to spirituality.

Viola’s large-scale video installations are likewise works of profound emotional impact. They combine sound and moving image to create absorbing works which slow us down and invite us to experience and reflect. These works are shown alongside Michelangelo drawings, which are on display in the UK for the first time in almost a decade.

This exhibition – created in close collaboration with Bill Viola Studio – is a unique opportunity to experience two artists, born centuries apart, in a new light.

Text from the RA website

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-1533
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Resurrection
c. 1532-1533
Black chalk

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

In the early 1530s Michelangelo drew the Resurrection of Christ more than a dozen times, for unknown reasons. Here he presents the transition to the eternal as a triumphant release, Christ as an explosion of energy amid the sepulchral gloom of the terrestrial sphere. The soldiers are prisoners of their earthly existence, lost in a death-like sleep, or recoiling from Christ in confusion at a sight beyond their comprehension.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Risen Christ' c. 1532-3

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-1533
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

In no other work by Michelangelo is the Resurrection expressed with such exuberance. Christ is long and virile, his muscular form modelled with tiny stokes of chalk, as highly finished as any of Michelangelo’s mythological drawings. It is perhaps paradoxical that a drawing of the triumph of the soul should so strongly emphasise Christ’s body, but his almost polished torso reflects the radiant light with a glory that transcends reality.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-1533
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-1564
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-1564
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-1564
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

To the right, the hunched figure of St John is list in desolation, his arms tightly folded as if shivering, his mouth open in a pain both physical and mental. The patch of red chalk at Christ’s feet is probably deliberate, symbolic of the sacrificial blood that was shed on the Cross.

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-1564
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing at centre Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, c. 1504-1505. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John' c.1504-05

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo)
c. 1504-1505
Marble relief
107 x 107 x 22cm
Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bequeathed by Sir George Beaumont, 1830
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London with at left Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo) c. 1504-1505; and at right, Bill Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola, Nantes Triptych, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Lamentation over the Dead Christ' c. 1540

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
c. 1540
Black chalk
28.1 x 26.8cm
The British Museum, London. Exchanged with Colnaghi, 1896, 1896,0710.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

In January 2019, the Royal Academy of Arts brings together the work of the pioneering video artist, Honorary Royal Academician Bill Viola (b. 1951), with drawings by Michelangelo (1475-1564). Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists and is a unique opportunity to see major works from Viola’s long career and some of the greatest drawings by Michelangelo, together for the first time. It is the first exhibition at the Royal Academy largely devoted to video art and has been organised in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.

The exhibition comprises 12 major video installations by Viola, from 1977 to 2013, being shown alongside 15 works by Michelangelo. They include 14 highly finished drawings, considered to be the high point of Renaissance drawing, as well as the Royal Academy’s Taddei Tondo. It proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter. It also aims to recapture the spiritual and emotional core of Michelangelo, beyond the awesome grandeur of his works.

Viola first encountered the works of the Italian Renaissance in Florence in the 1970s where he spent some of his formative years. A residency at the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 1998 renewed his interest in Renaissance art and in the shared affinities with his own practice. In 2006, Viola visited the Print Room at Windsor Castle to see Michelangelo’s exquisite drawings, which he had known in reproduction since his youth. The meeting proved a catalyst for the exhibition, which evolved as a conversation between Viola and Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust. Rather than setting up direct comparisons between the artists or suggesting that Michelangelo has been an instrumental influence on Viola’s work, the exhibition examines the affinities between them, bringing together specific works to explore resonances in their treatment of the fundamental questions: the nature of being, the transience of life, and the search for a greater meaning beyond mortality.

Viola stated, “Through my travels and experiences first in Florence, then primarily in non-Western cultures, and in combination with my readings in ancient philosophy and religion, I began to be aware of a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” Throughout his career, Viola has experimented with large-scale video installations; he is one of the first artists to have conceived video on an immersive architectural scale. He has increasingly utilised his medium’s fundamental elements – light, sound and time – to create visceral works that consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality. Unusually for video, they give shape to inner states of being rather than mirroring the world around us.

The exhibition presents Michelangelo’s works as more than examples of genius and virtuosity, revealing a personality that was frequently vulnerable. The drawings included were executed in the last 35 years of his life, some as gifts and expressions of love for close friends, others as private meditations on his own mortality. Religious imagery of the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection reflect on the presence of death and the eternal. In others, references to Classical mythology act as metaphors for the human condition. At their heart, as with Viola’s work, is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul.

The exhibition is conceived as an immersive journey through the cycles of life, exploring the transience and tumult of existence and the possibility of rebirth. It begins and ends with a pairing of works that reflect on a central paradox: the presence of death in life. Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist, c. 1504-1505, known as the Taddei Tondo, depicts the Baptist holding a fluttering bird from which the infant Christ recoils, the scene heralding his eventual sacrifice on the Cross. It is being displayed alongside Viola’s The Messenger, 1996 (Bill Viola Studio), which uses the metaphor of water to depict the eternal cycle of birth, life and death. The theme is being further explored in drawings relating to the Virgin and Child, as well as the Lamentation, c. 1540 (British Museum, London), which is being shown facing Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992 (Bill Viola Studio), three screens that individually portray a woman giving birth, a figure floating in a mysterious half-light, and Viola’s own mother on her deathbed. Viola stated, “It is the awareness of our own mortality that defines the nature of human beings”.

The exhibition continues with a series of installations by Viola that reflect on the nature of human experience, as one set by moral and ethical choices, besieged by fears and ultimately experienced in solitude. At the centre of the exhibition is Michelangelo’s extraordinary Presentation Drawings of the 1530s (loaned by Her Majesty The Queen, Royal Collection, London), which he produced as gifts for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman for whom he developed a deep love. Demonstration pieces relating to the craft of drawing with chalk, they also explore complex myths and Neoplatonic concepts, and were created as expressions of devotion towards their recipient. They include the Tityus, 1532, which acts as an allegory for the opposed forms of love in Neoplatonic philosophy: the punishment of base lust devoid of spiritual love. Further drawings by Michelangelo explore similar allegorical struggles in life, from the labours of Hercules to the fall of Phaeton. These are being shown in opposition to the quiet stillness of Viola’s Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (Bill Viola Studio). Life-size images of an ageing man and woman are projected onto two black granite slabs, showing them slowly examining every inch of their naked bodies by torchlight, unable to hide from their earthly state.

The final galleries include a series of works that more directly consider mortality and the possibility of rebirth. Among them are Michelangelo’s most poignant drawings, two Crucifixions from the final years of his life. The exhibition concludes two of Viola’s most majestic works; the monumental projections, Fire Woman, 2005, (Bill Viola Studio), and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Waterfall Under a Mountain), 2005 (Bill Viola Studio). They depict bodies falling and rising out of view, in different ways conjuring the body’s final journey and the passage of the spirit, in obscurity or in glory.

Press release from the RA Cited 23/02/2019

 

 

 

Bill Viola (American, b. 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (extract)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Bill Viola. 'Tristan's Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall)' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, b. 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), St Carthage’s Church, Parkville, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Fire Woman' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, b. 1951)
Fire Woman (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: Robin Bonaccorsi
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Fire Woman 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s The Veiling, 1995. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Five Angels for the Millenium, 2001. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, “Departing Angel”, from Five Angels for the Millennium 2001 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s The Dreamers, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

The Dreamers (2013) consists of seven individual screens, which depict underwater portraits of people who appear to be sleeping. Accompanied by the gentle sounds of water, the viewer is led to feel as if they themselves are submerged with these figures. In this spiritual, immersive subterranean environment, ultimate interpretation is left for the viewer to define, through the lens of their own experiences. (excerpt)

 

 

Bill Viola, The Dreamers (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s The Sleep of Reason, 1988. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Slowly Turning Narrative, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, The Messenger 1996 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s The Messenger, 1996. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly,
London, W1J 0BD

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Friday 10am – 10pm

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14
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art’ at Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 22nd September 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
50 x 69.5cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

 

A slight switch in gears for the next two postings. Conceptual, sculptural, minimal, monochromatic, corporeal, haptically varied surfaces that are absolutely fascinating…

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1957-1963

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Achrome
1957-1963
Kaolin on canvas
80 x 100cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
160 x 130cm
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013
Courtesy FaMa Gallery, Verona

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1962

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Achrome
1962
Pebbles and kaolin on canvas
70 x 50cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Alfabeto' (Alphabet) 1959

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Alfabeto (Alphabet)
1959
Printed paper and pencil on cardboard
70 x 50cm
Neues Museum Weimar
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

 

Ennio Vicario (Italian, b. 1935)
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

 

Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

 

Ennio Vicario (Italian, b. 1935)
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

 

 

Despite his short career, Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933‒1963), who died an early death at the age of twenty-nine, is regarded as one of the most momentous representatives of Italian art after 1945. Manzoni would have celebrated his eightieth birthday on July 13, 2013. The Städel will pay tribute to this key figure of the European post-war avant-garde with a comprehensive survey to mark the occasion exactly fifty years after the artist’s death. Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art will be the first Manzoni retrospective ever to be staged in the German-speaking world. The exhibition, on display from June 26 to September 22, 2013, will highlight the radical character of the artist’s multifaceted position: Manzoni not only submitted Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made to a far-reaching revision, but also thought central discourses of Modernism like monochromy through to the end and opened painting into the fields of the everyday world and commodity aesthetics. With works like Merda d’artista – (allegedly) 30 grams of artist’s shit in a strictly limited edition – or Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961) – a pedestal elevating the world to an artwork – Manzoni created two icons within the more recent history of art. More than one hundred works from all phases of Manzoni’s productive career will offer complex insights into a still persuasive and influential oeuvre between Art Informel and the emergence of a new concept of art, Modernism and neo-avant-garde, art and the everyday world. Manzoni’s still unbroken influence on contemporary art production will be illustrated in the exhibition by works of the artists Erwin Wurm (b. 1954), Leni Hoffmann (b. 1962), and Bernard Bazile (b. 1952), which – offering an essayistic introduction to the show ‒explore central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present.

“Though Piero Manzoni had a pivotal position in the cross-European ZERO network and, as a breathtaking innovator of the concept of art, strikes us hardly less avant­garde today, he is far less known than many of his ZERO colleagues in these parts. Fifty years after his sudden death, we want to change this situation with the first presentation of Manzoni’s work in a museum outside Italy for more than two decades,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Städel Museum.

“The exhibition is not only aimed at shedding light on the wide variety of Manzoni’s work produced within only a few years, but also at examining his enormous impact on the paradigm change in the art of the 1960s. Manzoni actually paved the way for today’s art, exercising an influence on Body Art and Performance Art, as well as on Conceptual Art and Land Art,” explains Dr. Martin Engler, Head of the Städel’s Contemporary Art Collection and curator of the show.

Piero Manzoni was born the son of Valeria Meroni and Egisto Manzoni, Count of Chiosca and Poggiolo, in Soncino, Lombardy, on July 13, 1933. He began to study law in 1951 and philosophy in 1955, when he also presented his first solo exhibition in Soncino. This was about the time he got to know artists of the CoBrA group, of the “Spatialist” movement around Lucio Fontana, and finally the “Arte Nucleare” group he joined in 1957. It was in Rotterdam where he presented his first solo show abroad in 1958. One year after, Manzoni founded the Azimut Gallery in Milan together with Enrico Castellani. The dato Gallery was the first to exhibit his work in Frankfurt in 1961. At the age of twenty-nine, Piero Manzoni died from a heart attack in his studio in Milan.

Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art opens on the ground floor of the Städel’s Exhibition Building with early works by the artist, which oscillate between informal grounds and strongly abstracted figurativeness. Mirroring the agent provocateur and avant-gardist’s mediating role within the international ZERO network, his early oeuvre is displayed next to selected works by such contemporaries as Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, or Yves Klein, as well as by ZERO artists like Günther Uecker or Heinz Mack. Thus, the presentation conveys an idea of both Manzoni’s intricate network of relationships and the interaction and exchange with his closely affiliated colleagues in Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, or Copenhagen right from the beginning.

In the adjoining, completely open exhibition space, forty-three works of Manzoni’s central Achromes series provide the basis of the presentation ‒or rather interlock the artist’s different strands of production: a band running along all four outside walls unfolds a seamless chronology of this epochal group of works, which spans the entire exhibition. Between 1957 and his death in 1963, Manzoni produced about six-hundred of these paintings without colour, whose different forms of appearance made them a background of reference for his whole oeuvre. Thanks to the open exhibition architecture the Achromes enclose the artist’s performative, body-related workgroups presented in the centre of the hall with the help of a freestanding architectural display.

Manzoni did without any direct artistic gesture when creating his “colourless” works. His “white” painting, defined by the absence of colour – white or “achrome” meaning in the colour of the material for him – takes a special position in the context of the international ZERO movement and its turn toward monochromy: Manzoni saw his Achromes as paintings in spite of their ultimate reduction on the one hand, yet extended them by everyday elements like rolls or Styrofoam by body and space on the other. Employing materials such as plaster of Paris, kaolin, or synthetic fibres, he relied on means with sculptural qualities which initiated a transition process from the picture into a third, corporeal dimension. The velvety, satiny, shining and haptically varied surfaces show the conceptual severity that characterises the description of this aesthetic concept to be a lie.

 

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition view of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

 

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2013
Photo: Alex Kraus
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

 

After his reduction of colour, Manzoni also radically reduced its counterpart, the line, to the core of its essence. Starting in 1959, Manzoni produced more than one hundred and thirty conceptual works he categorised as Linee (Lines). This group confronts us with the idea of the isolated line as a reduced artistic gesture: the uniform horizontal lines drawn on long strips of paper were rolled up in cardboard tubes and thus hidden from the eye. The works are presented in their tubes positioned upright like figurines. The highlight of this series is definitely the line Manzoni drew at a newspaper’s printers in Herning, Denmark, in 1960: it was more than seven kilometres long and stored in a zinc cylinder.

Manzoni’s endeavours as an artist centred on the issue of the body, an issue consistently derived from the corporeality of his Achromes and Linee. From the late 1950s on, he also dedicated himself to two further series: Corpi d’aria (Bodies of Air) and Fiato d’artista (Artist’s Breath) ‒ works vacillating between object and biology, between body and concept. The exhibited balloons, formerly filled with their owners’ or Manzoni’s breath, related to a body discourse that anticipated the 1970s and was also reflected in other works by the artist like in the performance Consumazione dell’arte (Consumption of Art, 1960), in which he marked hard-boiled eggs with his thumbprint and offered them to the audience to eat. The thumbprint is to be read as Manzoni’s most reduced physical trace which becomes a sign of his identity as individual, body, and artist.

The provocative impact of Manzoni’s probably best known group of works, Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit, 1961), is still unbroken even five decades after the artist’s death: thirty grams of artist’s shit in strictly limited compact cans, which were allegedly sold on the art market for the price of gold. This series may be understood as a logical continuation of Manzoni’s earlier art consumption performances: the artist’s body becomes the biological medium for the production of art, and Duchamp’s ready-made finds itself grounded in human biology. The exhibition comprises eleven cans of this series combining high and low, the spiritual and the abstract with the concrete and the physical and thus radically extends the traditional concept of art.

The resulting discourse of the body finds its culmination in the artist’s Sculture viventi (Living Sculptures, 1961) displayed in the show. Declaring bodies to be art by means of a pedestal, these works by Manzoni appropriate man as a living work of art: whoever steps onto the pedestal is elevated to a living sculpture and object of art for the time being. Going beyond the concept of the ready-made, Manzoni made the body the material of his art. His approach involved the viewer and opened the door for the Actionist Art of the 1960s and 1970s. The work Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961), which is also among the Städel’s exhibits, focuses on the whole world at once: a plinth presumably placed upside down elevates the world, including man, to a work of art in an all-embracing manner.

The presentation of three contemporary positions – Erwin Wurm (b. 1954), Leni Hoffmann (b. 1962), and Bernard Bazile (b. 1952) – provides an essayistic introduction to the show in the foyer of the Exhibition Building, a foreword exploring central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present. The Austrian artist Erwin Wurm will present the visitor as a living sculpture in one of his One Minute Sculptures he conceived especially for the show at the Städel. Leni Hoffmann’s re-edition of the longest line from Manzoni’s series Linee follows up the present reception of the artist’s work by realising a well-nigh endless line on the rotary press of a daily newspaper. The French artist Bernhard Bazile will show two of his works. In his film project Die Besitzer (The Owners) he interviews forty-nine collectors whose holdings comprise a sample of Manzoni’s Merda d’artista and, talking about the motives for their acquisition, reflect on the artist’s oeuvre far beyond the actual subject of the conversation. The show also comprises the Merda d’artista sample Bazile opened in 1989 and since then presents as his own work under the title Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni.

The exhibition Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art highlights the achievements of an artist who, in a radically innovative way, succeeded in condensing issues of late Modernism into a differentiated oeuvre that would prove to be a landmark for contemporary art. Today, Manzoni’s works mark a key position that has given birth to a conceptual discourse of the body and become the yardstick for a new, extended understanding of art which still clearly informs today’s debates.

Press release from the Städel Museum website

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Paradoxus Smith' 1957

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Paradoxus Smith
1957
Oil on board
100 x 130cm
The Sander Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Milano et-mitologiaa' (Milan and mythology) 1956

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Milano et-mitologiaa (Milan and mythology)
1956
Oil on board
95 x 130cm
Private Collection Milan
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Socle du monde' (Base of the world) 1961

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Socle du monde (Base of the world)
1961
Iron, bronze
82 x 100 x 100cm
HEART – Herning Museum of Contemporary Art
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Base magica - Scultura vivente' (Magic Base - Living sculpture) 1961

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Base magica – Scultura vivente (Magic Base – Living sculpture)
1961
Wood, metal, felt
79.5 x 79.5 x 60cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Fiato d'artista' (Artist's breath) 1960

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Fiato d’artista (Artist’s breath)
1960
Rubber balloon, string, lead seal, brass, wood
18 x 18cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Merda d'artista N.° 038' (Artist's shit N.° 038) 1961

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Merda d’artista N.° 038 (Artist’s shit N.° 038)
1961
Artist’s shit, printed paper, tin can
Private collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Linea m 3,54' (Line 3.54 m) 1959

 

Piero Manzoni (Italian, 1933-1963)
Linea m 3,54 (Line 3.54 m)
1959
23 x 6 cm
Ink on paper, cardboard container
Consolandi Collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Thursday 10.00am – 9.00pm
Closed Mondays

Städel Museum website

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03
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

 

Simon Vouet. 'The Fortune Teller' c. 1620

 

Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649)
The Fortune Teller
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

 

 

Observe if you will:

  1. The treatment of the background behind Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-96)
  2. The tension of the hands in this painting
  3. The pallor of the skin of Sick Bacchus (1593-94)
  4. The colour of the bunch of grapes in the same painting
  5. The critical distance between the two apricots and the bowed sash resting on the pediment in the same painting
  6. The youthful innocence of the dupe in The Cardsharps (c. 1595)
  7. The deep, foreboding shadows under the eyes of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1604-5)
  8. The astonishingly beautiful skin tones in Gerrit van Honthorst’s Saint Sebastian (c. 1623) and how the blood from the leg wound at left runs in two directions: one direction when Saint Sebastian was standing up, one when he has slumped down. Inspired.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Kimbell Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

One of the most influential figures in the history of art, Caravaggio (1571-1610) overturned the artistic conventions of the day and created stunningly dramatic paintings, both sacred and secular. This ambitious exhibition explores the profound impact of his work on the wide range of painters of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish origin who resided in Rome. Arranged by theme, it includes over 50 paintings, with Caravaggio’s compelling images juxtaposed with those he inspired. This is the second largest display of his paintings in North America and only the third Caravaggio exhibition to be held in the United States.

 

Music and Youth

Many of Caravaggio’s early paintings feature handsome youths, whether singly or in groups. He seems to have used the same favorite models repeatedly – and sometimes his own features, which a contemporary tells us he studied in a mirror. The origins of these novel paintings lay in the types of pictures – portraits, still lifes, and allegories – that were painted in a realistic style in the artist’s native Lombardy, in the north of Italy, although he blurred the boundaries between genres to suggest real-life scenes. Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians would have appealed to Roman collectors who were passionate patrons of music, and likely were created to decorate rooms used for performances. They have a dreamy, slightly melancholy air. If the songs are about love, as we can assume they are, they are surely about the painful side of love rather than its joys. Caravaggio’s early paintings of youths are usually scenes of sensual pleasure but with a built-in warning against indulgence, as when a youth has his finger bitten by a lizard lurking in some fruit. He brings us close to his figures, often having them make eye contact with us, and includes lovingly observed still-life details that enhance the naturalism and immediacy of the scene. Even when there is a visitation from the beyond, like the winged Cupid in The Musicians, he treats this in a matter-of-fact way, attentive always to breaking down the boundaries between the painted world and our own. Caravaggio’s musical paintings caught on throughout Europe in the work of his followers, who brought their own innovations to the genre.

 

Caravaggio. 'The Musicians' c. 1595

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Musicians
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 46 5/8 in (92.1 x 118.4cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1952

 

 

In this scene, Caravaggio shows some young musicians preparing for a concert. We are brought very close to the figures, as if we share the same space. Caravaggio breaks down the boundaries between art and life, and our reality and the painted world become entwined. The instruments are modern, but the musicians wear antique-inspired dress. The lute player tunes his instrument, and the horn player (possibly a self-portrait) catches our gaze. Another youth studies the musical score; it is no longer legible, but doubtless featured love madrigals. The winged Cupid with a quiver of arrows who is handling some grapes makes explicit the bond between music and love. Wine, like music, makes the spirits light. This painting belonged to Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who hosted concerts at his palace and invited musicians to live in his household, along with artists like Caravaggio.

 

Theodoor Rombouts. 'A Lute Player' c. 1620

 

Theodoor Rombouts (Flemish, 1597-1637)
A Lute Player
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
43 7/8 x 39 1/4 in (111.1 x 99.7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art. John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

 

 

Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians inspired Rombouts’s depiction of a musician tuning his lute. His intense expression suggests that he is both listening to the sound and sizing up the viewer, his audience. The vividly described carpet and still-life objects on the table recall Caravaggio’s similar close-up presentations. However, the colourful treatment of the costume and the robust delineation of the objects place Rombouts’s work within traditions of Flemish and Dutch painting. The still life, like ephemeral music, serves to remind us of the pleasures of life, but also that pleasure is fleeting. The artist also alludes to the five senses: hearing (the lute), taste (the tankard), smell (the pipe), sight (the musical scores), and touch (the knife).

 

Caravaggio. 'Boy Bitten by a Lizard' 1594–96

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
1594-1596
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 20 1/2 in (65 x 52cm)
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence

 

 

One of Caravaggio’s biographers wrote that “he also painted a boy bitten by a lizard emerging from flowers and fruits; you could almost hear the boy scream, and it was done meticulously.” The picture has suggested various interpretations. As an allegory of touch, it provides the basis for a study of how emotion is expressed physically, and arguably Caravaggio alludes to all the five senses (flowers as smell and so on). With the still life of fruits and roses, common emblems of love, he invokes age-old adages – pain can follow pleasure, and love is a rose with thorns that prick. Poets from Petrarch onward played on the similarity of the Italian words for “love” and “bitter” – amore and amaro – to which Caravaggio adds ramarro (lizard), ingeniously enlarging the joke.

 

Caravaggio. 'Sick Bacchus' 1593–94

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sick Bacchus
1593-1594
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

 

 

Cardsharps and Fortune Tellers

The young Caravaggio introduced another new kind of painting to the Roman art world with his scenes from the seamy side of life, its frauds and ruses. He painted these works on a large scale with half-length figures, and they were among his most widely imitated creations. His followers played countless variations on the same themes, trying various levels of subtlety and buffoonery in the humour and facial expressions. These highly animated compositions conjure up an underworld of wily cardsharps, soldiers of fortune, foolish dupes, sensuous and deceitful gypsy women, pickpockets, and thugs. They are based partly on everyday observations in the streets, partly on the stock characters and improvised comedies of the commedia dell’arte, partly on sheer fantasy. In such works, Caravaggio and his followers developed ingenious ways of involving us in the action. We read these amusingly moralising pictures through gestures and expressions – but to unravel the trickery takes time. Despite being frozen in a static image, the story seems to unfold before our eyes like one of the popular plays that were its inspiration. The artist extends the theme of deception by painting his subjects with such a high level of naturalism that the viewer is duped and astounded by his artistry.

 

Caravaggio. 'The Cardsharps' c. 1595

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Cardsharps
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
37 1/8 x 51 5/8 in (94.2 x 130.9cm)
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

 

 

The players are engaged in a game of primero, a forerunner of poker. Engrossed in his cards, the dupe is unaware that the older cardsharp signals his accomplice, who reaches to pull a hidden card from his breeches. The fingertips of the cheat’s gloved hand are exposed to better feel marked cards. According to an early biographer, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a great patron of the arts, took the young Caravaggio into his household soon after purchasing this picture. It hung along with The Gypsy Fortune Teller in his palace. Together they would surely have reminded the cardinal and his guests of the story of the prodigal son, warning about the perils of greed and fraud. Caravaggio has treated this subject not as a caricature of vice but in a fresh way, in which the interaction of gesture and glance evokes the drama of deception and lost innocence in the most human of terms. He structures the picture to allow us to witness everything, implicating us in the trickery.

 

Saints

Caravaggio grounded his saints in everyday reality, indicating their spiritual states by means of natural phenomena, especially light. In his early painting of Saint Francis, he shows the saint’s ecstasy – his mystic identification with Christ – by directing a strong light upon his figure and the consoling angel. God’s grace is signalled by light in other images of the saints, such as the scene of Mary Magdalene’s conversion from her former life of sin. In paintings of Saints Matthew and Jerome in their studies, much emulated in Caravaggio’s circle, light is a metaphor of divine inspiration. Generally the saints seem to be emerging from darkness into light, which adds drama, symbolism, and also a sense of mass – as if they were sculpted, not merely painted. In a break from Roman and Florentine traditions, Caravaggio rejected the practice of refining his composition through drawings before he began to paint and instead worked directly from a live model in the studio, preserving that model’s particular appearance, never making the features or body conform to an ideal of beauty. The effect, central to Caravaggio’s art and that of many of his followers, was startling. At this time, many people believed that the painting of sacred personages such as saints called for a special, elevated style that set them apart from the mundane reality of the here and now. Caravaggio’s radical departure from this principle brought him much harsh criticism. He was accused of merely copying and so failing to capture a higher truth. But others recognised in his work a new kind of religious art that directly engaged the faithful and made old subjects new and alive.

 

Caravaggio. 'Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness' 1604

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604-1605
Oil on canvas
68 x 52 in (172.7 x 132.1cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase William Rockhill Nelson Trust

 

 

Caravaggio’s practice of painting a live model in his studio brings this young, brooding saint to life – as if his image were inhabited by the model’s being. Ottavio Costa, a Roman banker, commissioned this painting for a chapel on a pilgrimage route in the countryside outside of Genoa, where his family had its origins. We can imagine what a powerful experience it would have been to encounter the image of the scarlet-robed saint there, dramatically emerging from the shadows into a strong light. When Caravaggio delivered the painting, Costa decided to keep it and placed a copy in the chapel. But even the copy proved inspiring. An early guide described how it “moves not only the members of the brotherhood but also visitors to penitence.”

 

Gerrit van Honthorst. 'Saint Sebastian' c. 1623

 

Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1592-1656)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1623
Oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London

 

 

The Sacred Narrative

Caravaggio was a masterful storyteller who could bring home the drama and significance of a biblical event with tremendous power. In his scenes from the Old and New Testaments, he created a new kind of painting – dramatic, even theatrical, yet grounded in the observation of ordinary reality – and it proved infectious among his contemporaries in Rome. His approach was to make the scene clear and simple, with the main actors in the drama seen close-up and caught in mid-action at a decisive moment, embodying the whole meaning of the event. He played down the setting, sometimes to the point that it is a mere pool of darkness from which the figures emerge. It was the actions and states of mind of the characters in the story that counted, and Caravaggio presented these with sometimes shocking directness and intensity, breaking all the rules of decorum that restrained more conventional painters. He mastered the art of concealing art, re-creating a scene with such a flavour of reality that it comes across as an eyewitness account. It was his power to draw viewers into the emotion and importance of a scene that made his work an essential object of study, even for such an independent genius as the great Peter Paul Rubens.

 

Caravaggio. 'Martha and Mary Magdalene' c. 1598

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Martha and Mary Magdalene
c. 1598
Oil and tempera on canvas
38 1/2 x 52 1/4 in (97.8 x 132.7cm)
Detroit Institute of Arts. Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford

 

 

Martha’s expressive hands, intensely illuminated, underscore her attempt to convert her sister Mary Magdalene from a life of worldly pleasures to one of spirituality. Several details recall Mary’s life of indulgence: the elegant dress, the ivory comb, the alabaster cosmetic jar. The mirror, a powerful symbol of vanity, becomes here an instrument reflecting the divine light that is penetrating Mary’s soul. Martha’s words seem to have been convincing, and her open mouth signals her amazement as she witnesses Mary’s transformation. The orange blossom in Mary’s right hand and the ring on her left indicate her new status as the blessed bride of Christ.

 

Caravaggio. 'Sacrifice of Isaac' 1602–3

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sacrifice of Isaac
1602-3
Oil on canvas
41 x 53 1/8 in (104 x 135cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

 

Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard,
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

Kimbell Art Museum website

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19
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici’ at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St Anne and St John' Nd

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572)
Holy Family with St Anne and St John
Nd
Oil on panel
124.5 x 99.5cm
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, inv. n. 183

 

 

Despite the sensitivity of the religious paintings it is the portraits of strong yet somehow vulnerable women that move me most in this posting. The paintings are “often read as static, elegant, and stylish exemplars of unemotional haughtiness and assurance.” (Wikipedia)

I don’t agree. Of course they have the trappings of the rich and powerful, the knowledgeable books at hand, the elongated Mannerist hands, the lush colours and detail of their pleated robes falling from their shoulders like liquid opulence (imagine the shock of these colours in 1530!) but there is something in their open stare that seems to reach across time to tap me on the shoulder and say yes, I can still see into your soul as you can into mine. Incredibly moving this work of genius.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence for allowing me to publish the photographs of the paintings in the posting. Please click on photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St John (Panciatichi Madonna)' c. 1540

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572)
Holy Family with St John (Panciatichi Madonna)
c. 1540
Oil on panel
116.5 x 89.5cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Inv. 1890 n. 8377

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St John' c. 1555-1559

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino and Alessandro Allori (Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503) Allori (Florence 1535) – Bronzino (Florence 1572) Allori (Florence 1607))
Holy Family with St John
c. 1555-1559
Tempera on panel
117 x 99cm
Moscow, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Inv.2699

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni' c. 1545

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni
c. 1545
Oil on panel
115 x 96cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Inv. 1890 n. 748

 

 

Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino (1503-1572), was one of the greatest artists in the history of Italian painting. Court artist to Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574), his work embodied the sophistication of the Mannerist style. Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici, on view at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence from 24 September 2010 to 23 January 2011, will be the very first exhibition devoted to his painted work. Bronzino conveyed the elegance of the Medici court in his work with “naturalness” and, at the same time, austere beauty.

Florence is the perfect setting for a monographic exhibition on Bronzino. The son of a butcher, not only was he born and died here, the city houses some of his greatest masterpieces, particularly in the Uffizi but also in other museums and churches. This landmark exhibition, with loans from the world’s most important museums, presents presents 63 works attributed to Bronzino, and 10 to Bronzino and his workshop, along with others by his master Pontormo, with whom he had close ties throughout his life. Bronzino’s paintings, with their sculptural definition, will be shown alongside sculptures by such 16th century masters as Benvenuto Cellini, Tribolo, Baccio Bandinelli and Pierino da Vinci, who were his friends and with whom he exchanged sonnets. The exhibition concludes with a number of works by Alessandro Allori, his favourite pupil.

Most of these jewel-like masterpieces have never been shown together. Alongside the paintings from the Uffizi, the exhibition will include such works as The Adoration of the Shepherds and the Allegory of Venus, Cupid and Jealousy from the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum in Budapest, the Venus, Cupid and Satyr from the Galleria di Palazzo Colonna in Rome, the Portrait of a Young Man with a Book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Holy Family with St Anne and St John in the versions in the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, together with panel paintings from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and from the National Gallery of Art, in Washington.

The exhibition will show three hitherto ‘missing’ works by Bronzino, two of which, while recorded and mentioned by Giorgio Vasari, were thought to have been lost: the Crucified Christ which he painted for Bartolomeo Panciatichi, and the St Cosmas, the right-hand panel accompanying the Besançon altarpiece when it originally graced Eleonora da Toledo’s chapel in Palazzo Vecchio. Their rediscovery sheds new light on Bronzino’s work and on his ties with the heretical religious mood that permeated the Medici court before 1550. The third previously unknown picture is Christ Carrying the Cross ascribed to his later years.

The exhibition, which has taken over four years to prepare, is curated by Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali, the foremost experts on Cinquecento painting who have also contributed to the scholarly catalogue. The exhibition, in conjunction with Drawings of Bronzino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (20 January to 18 April 2010), will play a central role in fostering a new interpretation of this important artist. For those who enjoyed the New York show, this Florence exhibition is a must-see.

Press release from the Palazzo Strozzi website [Online[ Cited 17/01/2011 no longer available online

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Guidubaldo II della Rovere' 1531-1532

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Guidubaldo II della Rovere
1531-1532
Oil on panel
114 x 86cm
Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina, inv. 1912 n. 149

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Laura Battiferri' c. 1555-60

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Laura Battiferri
c. 1555-1560
Oil on panel
83 x 60cm
Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, Collezione Loeser

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Lorenzo Lenzi' 1527

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Lorenzo Lenzi
1527
Oil on panel
90 x 71cm
Milan, Civiche Raccolte Artistiche – Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi' 1540

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi
1540
Oil on panel
101 x 82.8cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of a Women (Matteo Sofferoni's Daughter?)' c. 1530-32

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of a Women (Matteo Sofferoni’s Daughter?)
c. 1530-1532
Oil on panel
76.6 x 66.2 x 1.3cm
London, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, RCIN 405754

 

 

Palazzo Strozzi
Piazza Strozzi, 50123
Firenze (Florence), Italy
Phone: +39 055 2645155

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 8pm, Thursday 10am – 11pm
Last admission to the exhibition one hour before closing

Palazzo Strozzi website

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18
Dec
09

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio – Bacon’ at Gallery Borghese, Rome

2nd October 2009 – 24th January 2010

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'David with the Head of Goliath' c. 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
David with the Head of Goliath
c. 1610
Oil on canvas
125 cm × 101cm (49 in × 40 in)

 

 

Two of my favourite artists together for the first time!

Individually they are dazzling but the curatorial nous to bring these two great painters together – fantastic.

Imagine going back to the time of Caravaggio – his paintings in the churches of the powerful (not the rich, see, because the rich can never enter the kingdom of heaven) – lit by candlelight, all huge thrusting buttocks at eye level as you enter, the rich velvety colours, the drama, the dirty feet, the voluptuous forms stretched across the canvas.

Now imagine taking Bacon back to the same period. His sinuous, tortured bodies lit by candlelight – no a single electric light bulb (remember!) – innards spreading effusively, effluently along the floor. Can you imagine the gloomy interiors with Bacon’s figures looming out of the darkness? His Head VI screaming in the darkness …

Instinctively, intellectually we know how the paintings of a Baroque artist of the early 17th century affect how we look at the paintings of Bacon. This exhibition offers the reverse, in fact it rewrites how we look at Caravaggio – through the benediction of Bacon. Those rough house homosexuals sure knew a thing or two about painting, flesh, desire and the eroticism of the human body. God bless em!

PS. I have arranged the paintings below to illustrate some of the confluences and divergences between the two great artists, hopefully much as the actual exhibition will have done.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Gallery Borghese for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. 'The Conversion of Saint Paul' c. 1600/01

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Conversion of Saint Paul
c. 1600-1601
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Study of George Dyer' 1969

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Study of George Dyer
1969
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness' 1604

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604
Oil on canvas

 

 

“I have always aspired to express myself in the most direct and crudest way possible, and maybe, if something is transmitted directly, people find it horrifying. Because, if you say something in the most direct way to a person, the latter sometimes takes offence, even if what you said is a fact. Because people tend to take offence at facts, or at what was once called truth.” ~ Francis Baon

 

This is how the Irish genius Francis Bacon justified his modus operandi, his propensity for a disquieting and sometimes grotesque distortion of the form. His works, placed next to those of another “damned” painter of the history of art, the great Caravaggio, will be exhibited from 1st October 2009 to 24th January 2010 at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. On the occasion of the fourth centenary of Caravaggio’s death, and of the centenary of Bacon’s birth, the figures of these eccentric artists, who are considered excessive – each one in their own way in their own period – are interweaved and narrated for the first time at the Galleria Borghese, which will also have prestigious loans from the most important museums in the world. By Caravaggio, already familiar with the Galleria Borghese thanks to his relation with cardinal Scipione Borghese, six masterpieces will be on view, synthesising his entire production: Boy with basket of fruit, Sick little Bacchus, Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri), David with the head of Goliath, Saint Jerome writing and Saint John the Baptist. Other key works of his artistic career will be added to these pieces of the permanent collection: Peter’s denial (Metropolitan in New York), Saul’s fall (Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome), The Martyrdom of St. Orsola (Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano in Naples) and the Portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta (Palazzo Pitti). About twenty works by Bacon, loaned by the most prestigious museums, will be placed next to Caravaggio’s masterpieces.

The exhibition has the objective, with an unusual style and combining for the first time the two authors, not so much to immerse visitors in a historical-critical reconstruction, as much as to suggest an alternative aesthetic experience generated by the confrontation between the two expressive idioms which are so far yet so close. To tell the truth, the comparison between the two artists betrays Bacon’s grammar, as he did not love to be measured against the great masters of the past, even with those he esteemed the most: he ingeniously looked at the great “pillars” of the history of art filtering them through photography, which convulsively stimulated his perception and guided his creativity, until he conceived works that were very far from their original source of inspiration. Yet Caravaggio and Francis Bacon have something in common: in their linguistic, formal and temporal diversity they are both undisputed paladins of the human figure, they were able to seize the arcane undertones of life and art, and translate them into representations of ruthless frankness. Through the truth of flesh, what emerges are existential anxieties and a careful analysis of the human soul. In Caravaggio it happens thanks to his realism taken to obsession, in which the rigorous plasticity of bodies and theatrical illumination do not reveal only pleasant and harmonious shapes, they do not spare the spectators’ eyes from the crudeness of the distressing and deformed aspect of a subject. For Bacon physical deformation is enslaved to the ferocious narration of the human condition. Therefore, the password of this “strange couple” of artists is “truth,” of purposes and/or of means.

Therefore, the true stars of the exhibition are the spectators, it is up to them to contemplate the works and find links and discrepancies between the two artists, according to their own sensibility and regardless of the conditions originally foreseen by the painters for their creations. Those pieces live, in the museum context of Villa Borghese, an autonomous existence, free from their first generated status. The exhibition “Caravaggio – Bacon” is curated by Anna Coliva, Director of the Galleria Borghese, Claudio Strinati, Special Superintendent for the PSAE and for the Museum Pole of the city of Rome and by Michael Peppiatt, biographer and close friend who knew very well Francis Bacon, organised by MondoMostre and made possible thanks to the support of BG Italia, ENEL and Vodafone.

Press release from the Gallery Borghese website [Online] Cited 12/12/2009 no longer available online

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Saint Jerome Writing' c. 1605-1606

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint Jerome Writing
c. 1605-1606
Oil on canvas
112 × 157cm (44 in × 62 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Young Sick Bacchus' c. 1593

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Young Sick Bacchus
c. 1593
Oil on canvas
67 × 53cm (26 in × 21 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness)' c. 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness)
c. 1610
Oil on canvas
159 × 124cm (63 in × 49 in)

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Central panel of the 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Central panel of the Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Right panel of the 'Triptych in Memory of George Dyer' 1971

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Right panel of the Triptych in Memory of George Dyer
1971
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych' August 1972

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Triptych
August 1972
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'The Denial of Saint Peter' 1610

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Denial of Saint Peter
1610
Oil on canvas
94 × 125.4cm (37 in × 49.4 in)

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Triptych of George Dyer' 1973

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Triptych of George Dyer
1973
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) Central panel of the 'Triptych of George Dyer' 1973

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Central panel of the Triptych of George Dyer
1973
Oil on canvas

 

Francis Bacon (British 1909-1992) 'Head VI' 1949

 

Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992)
Head VI
1949
Oil on canvas

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Boy with a Basket of Fruit' c. 1593-1594

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy with a Basket of Fruit
c. 1593-1594
Oil on canvas
70 × 67cm (28 in × 26 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri)' 1606

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Madonna and Child with St. Anne (dei Palafrenieri)
1606
Oil on canvas
292 × 211cm (115 in × 83 in)

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) 'The portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta' 1608-09

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The portrait of Antonio Martelli, Knight of Malta
1608-1609
Oil on canvas
118.5 × 95.5cm (46.7 in × 37.6 in)

 

 

Galleria Borghese
Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm

Gallery Borghese website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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