Friday, October 24, 2014

Strokes of Genius: Italian Drawings from the Goldman Collection

The Art Institute of Chicago presents more than 80 masterpieces of Italian draftsmanship selected from the collection of Chicagoans Jean and Steven Goldman in the exhibition Strokes of Genius: Italian Drawings from the Goldman Collection, on view Saturday, November 1, 2014, through Sunday, February 1, 2015.

Francesco de Rossi, il Salviati. The Head of a Female Warrior, n.d. Jean and Steven Goldman Collection 

Focusing on the periods of Mannerism and the early Baroque, the exhibition includes nearly 60 drawings never before seen in public. Recent acquisitions of works, ranging from a figure study by Baccio Bandinelli to a composition drawing by Salvator Rosa, are shown with two dozen significant drawings from the Goldmans’ existing collection, including masterpieces by Pietro da Cortona, the Carracci, and Francesco Salviati. 

The exhibition features many of the Goldmans’ promised gifts to the Art Institute alongside about 20 related works from the museum’s Prints and Drawings Collection that provide greater historical context for this prodigious era of Italian art.

The exhibition focuses on “The Art of Composition” by displaying drawings from the late 15th to the mid-17th century according to their intended function. Organized by drawing type—figures,
head studies, and compositional sketches—Strokes of Genius invites viewers to compare the use of media and technique in each category. Most were executed as working drawings to develop compositions for paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts. 

This collection provides a unique opportunity to view more than one study for a single project. On display are multiple preparatory sheets for one commission allowing viewers to witness the thought process of the artist as he rejects and changes ideas while searching for his form. 

Two sheets by Francesco Vanni (1563–1610) for The Coronation of the Virgin, created for the Chiesa del Santuccio in Siena between 1610 and 1614, vividly illustrate this process.

Pirro Ligorio. A Scene from The Golden Ass by Apuleius, n.d. Promised gift of Jean and Steven Goldman.

In addition to preparatory drawings, the exhibition includes meticulously finished presentation renderings that were executed as works of art in their own right, including a set of the Four Evangelists by Guercino (1591?–1666). The increasing interest in presentation drawings by both collectors and scholars reflects the importance placed on drawing as a medium capable of conveying artistic genius and worthy of collecting for its singular merits. In addition to well- known artists of the period, the exhibition includes a number of stellar works by masters who were once deemed minor but have since been reconsidered by scholars.

Battista Franco, Il Semolei. A Male Nude Bending Over, 1560/61. Promised gift of Jean and Steven Goldman.

An exhibition catalogue, prepared by independent scholars Jean Goldman and Nicolas Schwed, includes essays situating the collection within the context of Mannerism and examining the role of drawing in the business of art.