Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rembrandt’s Mark

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD)

2019 marks 350 years since Rembrandt’s death. The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD), which hold one of the most significant collections of his paintings, drawings and prints, are celebrating the artist at this occasion with a large exhibition of his works. “Rembrandt’s Mark” centres around the graphic artist and draughtsman and takes a look at an artist who has been studied by artists more than any other.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Selbstbildnis mit aufgerissenen Augen, 1630. Kupferstich-Kabinett © SKD, Photo: Andreas Diesend.
The one-of-a-kind collection at the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden underpins the exhibition, which focusses on Rembrandt’s narrative compositions, his etched self-portraits and studies of his wife Saskia van Uylenburgh. The presentation comprises approximately 100 works from all of the artist’s creative periods and around 50 etchings and drawings by students of his workshop as well as works by subsequent artists who considered Rembrandt an authority and a source of creative inspiration.

The show, complemented by loans from national and international museums, including the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Courtauld Gallery in London, the Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, the Graphische Sammlung in Munich, the Städelmuseum in Frankfurt as well as from the Schenkung Sammlung Hoffmann and further private collections, sheds light on one of the most innovative and unconventional artists of all time.

The range of those who have explored Rembrandt in defining their own self-portrait extends from immediate successors and masters of the eighteenth century to contemporary artists. Among them we find artists such as Benedetto Castiglione (1609–1664), Jonathan Richardson (1667–1745), Christian W. E. Dietrich (1712–1774), Francisco de Goya (1746–1828), Lovis Corinth (1858–1925), Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), Max Beckmann (1884–1950), Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), A.R. Penck (1929–2017), Gerhard Altenbourg (1926–1989), Marlene Dumas (b. 1953) and William Kentridge (b. 1955).

Rembrandt remains timelessly captivating due to his radicality in selecting Christian and secular pictorial subjects, and in his unconventional interpretation of them. No less captivating is his pronounced love of experimentation – especially in the use of drawing and printing techniques – as well as his intellect, which is marked by reflection and humour. With a light touch, he throws off all conventions, almost playful yet wildly energetic. His dynamic, unmistakable mark creates pictorial worlds in which an altogether boundless interest in nature reveals itself. The mark he makes is also the utterly unique signature that he leaves behind. At the same time this mark is synonymous with his distinct creativity and thus with his personality.

Rembrandt’s mark is also the mark he left on art history, the footprint of his artistic work that can be followed. These aspects are presented in five sections:

The first section is Rembrandt’s Self. The artist as a person becomes as tangible through his signature as through his numerous self-portraits. Gathered together, the works in this section show the artist with different facial expressions and taking on different roles – from beggar to Oriental nobleman. They tell of both his self-inquiry and how he liked to present himself. Choosing the etching, Rembrandt used a reproductive medium that would serve his self-fashioning, as it did later artists.

The second section, Rembrandt and Saskia, is dedicated to Rembrandt’s wife who died in 1642 at the young age of 29 years. Around twelve drawings and etchings will be presented as a group for the first time. Included here are not only


the Dresden brush study of Saskia in bed

but also the famous Berlin engagement portrait done in silverpoint,

as well as the outstanding oil painting – created around the same time –


of a laughing Saskia, which is held today in the collection of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

In Rembrandt Learning, Rembrandt Teaching the perspective opens up to include artists with whom Rembrandt worked closely, be it as a student or later as a teacher. The artist comes into view in the forceful strokes he used to correct his students’ drawings or, for instance, when he sits with them before life models.

The central section, Work Process, probes pictorial invention in drawings and prints. Relatively rare in Rembrandt’s work, drawings used only in preparation for further works are included in the exhibition. The subject culminates in the famous


Hundred Guilder Print of 1648; its preparatory drawings are shown together for the first time.

 Also on show are three states of the great dry point work  


Ecce Homo, whose dramatic composition evolved in several steps.

The final section bears the title Light and Shadow, an important artistic means found in the oeuvre of the Netherlandish artist. Using this pair of opposites, Rembrandt succeeded not only in depicting the physical world but also in visualizing the dimension of cognizance. Above and beyond this, his frank observations about the range of human physical needs, including sexuality, created new pictorial subjects that left traditional motifs behind.

In its inclusion of artists who still today openly consider Rembrandt a dynamic authority and source of inspiration, the exhibition is not so much seeking to illustrate Rembrandt’s reception as such but rather to make apparent through these crown witnesses the artist’s enormous appeal, which has continued for centuries.

The exhibition “Rembrandt’s Mark“ is curated by Stephanie Buck with Mailena Mallach.

At the occasion of the exhibition, an extensively illustrated catalogue in German and English will be published by Paul Holberton Publishing.

Francis Bacon Couplings


June 6–August 3, 2019

The moment a number of figures become involved, you immediately come on to the storytelling aspect of the relationships between figures. And that immediately sets up a kind of narrative. I always hope to be able to make a great number of figures without a narrative.
—Francis Bacon
Gagosian is pleased to present Couplings, an exhibition of Francis Bacon’s double-figure paintings.
Bacon’s disturbing images—his portrayals of friends and fellow artists, and the deformations and stylistic distortions of classical subjects—radically altered the genre of figurative painting in the twentieth century. In Bacon’s paintings, the human presence is evoked sometimes viscerally, at other times more fleetingly, in the form of a shadow or a blurred, watchful figure. In certain instances, the portrayal takes the form of a composite in which male and female bodily traits are transposed or fused. This selective exhibition explores a theme that preoccupied Bacon throughout his career: the relationship between two people, both physical and psychological.

At the heart of the exhibition are two of the most uninhibited images that Bacon ever painted:

Two Figures (1953)


and Two Figures in the Grass (1954).

These interrelated works have not been seen publicly together since the major retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971. After completing Two Figures in the Grass, Bacon did not return to the subject until 1967, the year that homosexual acts in private were decriminalized in England and Wales.

That same year he painted Two Figures on a Couch (1967), which was last exhibited in London in 1968 and is also included in Couplings.

Finding that the physical presence of his subjects could prove inhibiting, Bacon painted his figures and portraits both from memory and from photographs—his own, as well as Eadweard Muybridge’s dynamic studies of people in motion, including male wrestlers.

Although Bacon was sometimes reluctant to specifically identify the subjects of his paintings, a number of the works in Couplings (a term the artist himself used) were inspired by his fraught, often violent and passionate relationships. His affair with Peter Lacy, a former fighter pilot whom he met in 1952, cooled off after Lacy moved to Tangier, Morocco, in 1956, where Bacon visited him every summer until 1961. But even after Lacy died in 1962, Bacon continued to paint portraits of him, recalling intensely intimate moments in their relationship.

In 1963 Bacon met George Dyer, a petty criminal from London’s East End. Dyer succeeded Lacy as Bacon’s lover and model and was the inspiration for many of Bacon’s grandest and most emotive paintings of the male nude. Three works in Couplings suggest a startlingly erotic and sometimes violent relationship between two men, such as the one Bacon and Dyer had: Two Figures on a Couch, the triptych Three Studies of Figures on Beds (1972), and Two Figures with a Monkey (1973)—the last two painted after Dyer’s suicide in 1971.

This is Gagosian’s third exhibition dedicated to Bacon’s work, following Francis Bacon: Late Paintings (2015) and Francis Bacon: Triptychs (2006).

The gallery is deeply grateful to the private lenders to this exhibition, as well as to Leeds Art Gallery, England, and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with a previously unpublished interview with Bacon by Richard Francis; an essay by Martin Harrison, author of the acclaimed Bacon catalogue raisonné; and an introduction by Richard Calvocoressi, senior curator at Gagosian. The catalogue will be released in October 2019, to coincide with Frieze London.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

George Miller and American Lithography

“Steel Valley,” 1936, Louis Lozowick, Lithograph, 9 3/8 x 13 ⅜ inches.
(Gift of Steven and Stephanie Wasser, 2017.74. Printed by George C. Miller, published by Associated American Artists.)
The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State will be hosting “George Miller and American Lithography,” an exhibition highlighting George Miller’s influential works and the role he played in making fine art lithography an accessible medium in the early years of the 20th century. The exhibition opens on June 18, 2019, and will be on view through September 15, 2019.

Drawn entirely from the museum’s own collection, the exhibition will bring together 38 prints by notable artists who worked with the master printer George Miller (1894-1965) to create some of their most memorable and recognizable works.

“In the years following World War I, lithography very quickly became a major means of expression for hundreds of artists in this country. The finest way to tell this story is to focus on the one person who was responsible for the success of so many artists who took an interest in exploring the medium, and that is George Miller,” said curator Patrick McGrady, referring to Miller’s contribution in the field of lithography.

At the turn of the century, quality lithographic printing was accomplished only by commercial firms for whom small editions were not economically viable. American artists either traveled to Europe to have their work professionally printed or struggled with their own presses to master the complicated process. After privately helping George Bellows and others to realize their lithographs, Miller, then head of the proofing department at the American Lithographic Company, quit his position in 1917 to set up his own workshop in New York City dedicated to fine art lithography.

For more lithographs by Gaeorge Miller: 

Modern Movement: Figurative Works by Arthur Bowen Davies

Ogunquit Museum of Art , Maine  
through July 1

Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928) Star in the North, n.d. Oil on canvas 8 ⅛ x 20 ⅛ in.
Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928) Sweet Ariel Clouds, n.d.
Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928) Four Dancing Figures, 1924.
Now through July 11, 'Modern Movement: Figurative Works by Arthur Bowen Davies' is on view at the Ogunquit Museum of Art in Maine.

Arthur Bowen Davies began to sketch and paint images of dancers in the mid-1890s and would dwell on that subject until the end of his career. Modern Movement suggests not only the illusion of movement within Davies’ works, but also the wealth of modernist styles and ideas which debuted in the Armory Show of 1913. That exhibition initiated a modern movement in the visual arts in the United States, with Davies largely responsible for selecting works and organizing gallery themes.
The exhibition title also serves as a reference to the modern dance movement that influenced Davies and his contemporaries. Isadora Duncan, in particular, shared Davies Hellenic adoration of dance. As Davies has been referred to as the father of modern art in America, Duncan has been called the mother of modern dance in America. While the Armory Show rocked the foundations of traditional visual art, Duncan’s trailblazing approach to what was then called aesthetic barefoot dance, transformed the world of theatrical dance.

On loan from the Maier Museum of Art, the exhibition features rarely exhibited works on paper and oil paintings. Arthur B. Davies Figurative Works on Paper from the Randolph College and Mac Cosgrove-Davies Collections and Arthur B. Davies

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Édouard Vuillard: The Poetry of the Everyday

The Holburne Museum

24 May to 15 September 2019

This Spring, The Holburne Museum presents an extensive exhibition of works by Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) including many that are rarely publicly displayed.

Vuillard was one of the leading figures in French art at the end of the 19th-century. He is famed for his small, subtle studies mostly of figures in interiors. The Poetry of the Everyday celebrates the unique qualities of his early work (from the 1890s) in which he balanced an obsession with patterned fabrics and wallpaper with subtle, domestic psycho-dramas to create paintings with a striking emotional intensity. Vuillard’s art is renowned for its modest scale, intimate subject matter and subdued colouring. The Poetry of the Everyday will include around forty paintings and prints, including a number of rarely seen oils from private lenders alongside major works from national and regional public collections.

Vuillard was a founder member of The Nabis, a group of painters who followed Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas in emphasising the decorative qualities of a picture. Vuillard’s art is often compared to poetry because of the way he combined this emphasis on the formal qualities of a work of art with recognisable subject matter and implied narratives. He himself said, ‘Who speaks of art speaks of poetry. There is no art without a poetic aim.’

Though he painted numerous landscapes, several of which will be on show at the Holburne, Vuillard’s art is dominated by domestic interiors. While he often painted friends, a large part of his output is made up of pictures of the apartments that he shared with his mother and his sister. Vuillard described his mother, with whom he lived until her death in 1928, as his ‘muse’ and there are over 500 portrayals of her. Mme Vuillard was a seamstress, working from home, and the fabrics that filled their apartment clearly provided the artist with great stimulation. This he combined with the elaborately patterned wall papers which had become widespread in late 19th-century Paris as new printing techniques made them easier to produce and to afford.

While the women of his own family dominated much of his work, Vuillard’s output was much more diverse. Though at times almost abstract, his art captures the quiet dramas that go on in a tight-knit family, or in any domestic realm. Some works depict friends while in several others, mysterious figures appear to intrude subtly from the edges of the painting.

At first Two Seamstresses in the Workroom (1893, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) appears purely to be a depiction of two young women stitching cloth. Vuillard illuminates the painting with bright, contrasting colours; a lamp casts a rich, amber glow making the blue of the woman’s blouse in the foreground command our attention. However, upon closer inspection we can see there is another person at the table. Their presence is evidenced by the merest hint of a flesh tone, but the characteristic shape of her forehead tells us that Madame Vuillard is here.

The Green Dinner.

Mme Vuillard provides a frame and initial focal point to The Green Dinner (1892, Private Collection), as Vuillard shows us a scene of typical family life, with his immediate relatives chatting after eating together. This painting reflects the close relationships of the Vuillards and another important figure in both the artist’s life and art, his older sister Marie.

The relationship between mother and daughter is demonstrated in the National Gallery of Scotland’s The Chat (1893) but is also remarkable for another feature – a sense of distance, rather than a close up, intimate portrayal of his subjects.

Marie takes a central role in The Artist’s Sister with a Pot of Coffee (1893, The Fitzwilliam Museum). She sits very still, with a baleful expression. The flat, charcoal tones of her dress appear to be merging with the near-black patterned wallpaper behind her. The gold-coloured table cloth and blue-patterned, white cup and saucer to her left suggest a break from the drudgery of her chores, as evidenced by the broom leaning on the wall. Vuillard introduces a tragi-comic aspect to this very moving painting, by inserting the figure of his mother in the adjoining room.

Madame Vuillard Arranging her Hair, 1900, Oil on cardboard, laid on panel, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham © The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.  

The Barber Institute’s Madame Vuillard Arranging Her Hair (1900) encapsulates Vuillard’s principal fascinations – his petit-bourgeois mother, domestic activities and life as it is lived, in this case, his mother pinning her trademark bun.

Vuillard’s apparent preoccupation with the patterns on soft-furnishings, wallpaper and clothing coalesce in The Manicure (1897, Southampton City Art Gallery). The painting reveals the influence of Gauguin’s ideas on the combination of subject matter, the artist’s feelings about the subject and the use of form, colour and line. Vuillard, a shy and sensitive man, creates an intimate atmosphere, dominated by the competing patterns of wallpapers and fabrics and psychological tensions between the subjects and Vuillard himself.

Though a majority will be of interiors – populated and not – there are also be a number of landscapes in the exhibition, including

 Edouard Vuillard - Road Skirting a Forest

Road Skirting a Forest (c.1896, Private Collection),  


and Landscape – House on the Left (1900, Tate).

Chris Stephens, the Holburne’s Director and curator of The Poetry of the Everyday says “To my mind, Vuillard made some of the most extraordinary and most beautiful pictures of the late 19th century, an unusually rich moment in art history. Like a true poet, he brilliantly balanced the formal qualities of colour and pattern with enigmatic psychological drama. Abstract and narrative, his paintings have a power made all the more compelling by their compact scale.”

Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 
5/28/2019 - 9/15/2019
Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance, an exhibition sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, analyses the artistic importance of the early Florentine Renaissance between approximately 1420 to 1430, with a particular focus on the figure of Fra Angelico, one of the great masters of this period.
The exhibition, which includes 82 works loaned by more than 40 institutions in Europe and America, centres on
 ‘The Annunciation’ © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Annunciation in the collection of the Museo del Prado, which is now presented in all its splendour following its recent restoration.

Shown alongside it are The Virgin of the Pomegranate, which recently entered the Museum’s collection, and an extensive group of works by the artist and by other painters of this period such as Masaccio, Masolino and Filippo Lippi, as well as sculptors including Donatello and Ghiberti.

Curated by Carl Brandon Strehlke, Curator Emeritus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a renowned expert on Fra Angelico and other Florentine Renaissance painters, the exhibition is on display in Rooms C and D of the Jerónimos Building until 15 September.

Fra Angelico trained as a painter in Florence where the public commissions for sculpture and architecture undertaken by Brunelleschi, Donatello and Ghiberti led to a renewed interest in classical antiquity as a source of inspiration. Although he was an apprentice in the studio of the Benedictine monk Lorenzo Monaco, who cultivated a refined and elegant Gothic style, Fra Angelico fully committed himself to the new artistic language and, like his master, entered a religious house, San Domenico in Fiesole, where he took religious orders. His status as a monk did not prevent him from collaborating with other artists or from running a large workshop that provided paintings for both churches and important patrons in the city and elsewhere.

Among the altarpieces painted by the artist for his own monastery was The Annunciation now in the Museo del Prado and the centrepiece of the present exhibition. In that work Fra Angelico reveals his active participation in the renaissance of the arts that was taking place in Florence, given that alongside the younger Masaccio he formulated a new way of seeing which would come to dominate Western art until the modern age.

Dating from the mid-1420s, The Annunciation is the first Florentine altarpiece in the Renaissance style to use perspective to organise the space and in which Gothic arcading is abandoned in favour of a more orthogonal structure, following the precepts favoured by Brunelleschi. Due to his status as a monk, Fra Angelico’s abilities in the depiction of light, space, perspective and narrative have often been eclipsed by his merits as a theological painter.

The Annunciation arrived in Spain in 1611 and was probably the first work by the artist to leave Italy, while The Virgin of the Pomegranate was acquired in 1817 by the 1st Duke of Alba at a time when the importance of the early Florentine Renaissance was being rediscovered. Two accounts thus overlap in the exhibition: Florence as seen by Fra Angelico and Fra Angelico viewed through Spanish eyes.

Eighteen Dominican Monks (c. 1421–24), Fra Angelico
Eighteen Dominican Monks (c. 1421–24), Fra Angelico. National Gallery, London
Christ on the Cross (c. 1493–98), Pedro Berruguete.
Christ on the Cross (c. 1493–98), Pedro Berruguete. Diputación de Segovia

Catálogo “Fra Angelico y los inicios del Renacimiento en Florencia” (español)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Women of the WPA

Georgia Museum of Art
 through Sept. 8, 2019

The Works Progress Administration (renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939) was an American New Deal agency created to provide jobs for the unemployed, to build infrastructure, to document American history and to create new works of art. This exhibition complements “Celebrating Heroes: American Mural Studies of the 1930s and 1940s from the Steven and Susan Hirsch Collection,” organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, and focuses specifically on the contributions of women to WPA art, including works by Lucienne Bloch, Marie Bleck, Marguerite Redman Dorgeloh, Helen Lundeberg, Minnetta Good, Jennie Lewis, Ann Nooney, Elizabeth Olds and others. Thanks to Lamar Dodd and museum founder Alfred Heber Holbrook, the Georgia Museum of Art’s collection has been historically strong in WPA-era artists, and we continue actively to collect both works of this time period and works by woman artists.

Ann Nooney (American, 1900 – 1970) “Small Town,” n.d. Color lithograph. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Transferred from the University of Georgia Library
Marie Bleck (American, 1911 – 1949), “Muskie Fishermen,” 1937. Linoleum block print on rice paper. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Transferred from the University of Georgia Libraries