Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
June 30, 2018 – Sep 30, 2018
“This exhibition is a remarkable curatorial accomplishment,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “Never before have extraordinary masterpieces such as
Botticelli’s Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci) (1475, Städel Museum, Frankfurt)Botticelli’s Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci),
Raphael’s Self Portrait,
Van Eyck’s The Annunciation (ca. 1434/1436, National Gallery, Washington, DCand Van Eyck’s The Annunciation
been displayed with Pre-Raphaelite treasures
including Mariana by John Everett Millais,
John Everett Millais,Mariana.1851, Tate, London
William Holman Hunt (English,1827-1905)
The Lady of Shalott, c.1890 - 1905
Oil on canvas, 74 1/4 x 57 5/8 in.
The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund,1961.470
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt,
and Bocca Baciata by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Loans from major museum collections in Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the United States have been gathered to explore how the renegade Pre-Raphaelites, represented by their most beloved works, engaged with the art of the past. The subject of how artists relate to their predecessors is eternal and one that still very visibly consumes artists of our own time.”
In 1848—a year of political revolution across Europe—seven young Englishmen with aspirations to rebel against the art world formed a secret artistic alliance. Calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the artists—including William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais—opposed the Royal Academy of Art’s prevailing aesthetic tenets embodied by its first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom they christened “Sir Sloshua.”
They appropriated the mandate that artists should seek truth in nature, “rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing.”
“The Pre-Raphaelites were deeply concerned with and inspired by their predecessors, but the name they chose for their brotherhood is a complicated misnomer,” says Melissa Buron, Director of the Art Division at the Fine Arts Museums and the exhibition’s curator. “In their first phase, the Pre-Raphaelites renounced the idealized figures depicted by High Renaissance painters who were followers of Raphael (the “Raphaelites”), esteeming early Italian artists instead. As they matured, they also emulated Raphael, and even later artists such as the sixteenth-century Venetian painter, Veronese.”
Although the Pre-Raphaelites’ initial style ostensibly rejected the aesthetics of Raphael, his followers, and the Baroque artists, these parameters fluctuated over the course of each artist’s career. Examples from Rossetti’s mature period, such as
Monna Vanna (1866, Tate, London)
and Veronica Veronese (1872, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington),
included in the exhibition, are perhaps the most evocative of this development.
These sumptuous paintings reveal a surprising shift in the appreciation for the Italian Renaissance, particularly sixteenth-century Venetian paintings.
Truth and Beauty will also trace the Brotherhood through the nineteenth-century “rediscovery” of Botticelli by English art critics and artists, which paralleled efforts by the second-generation Pre-Raphaelites to revive tempera painting techniques and materials.
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, "Love and the Maiden," 1877. Oil, old paint and gold leaf on canvas, 54 x 79 in. (137.2 x 200.7 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, European Art Trust Fund, Grover A. Magnin Bequest Fund and Dorothy Spreckels Munn Bequest Fund, 2002.176
The Fine Arts Museums’ masterpiece Love and the Maiden (1877) by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, painted in Florence, reflects the influence of the artist’s travels in Italy, and will be displayed near Botticelli’s Idealized Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci) (1475, Städel Museum, Frankfurt). Six paintings by Botticelli will be on view—the most ever assembled for an exhibition on the West Coast.
Yet the Pre-Raphaelites’ sources of inspiration extended beyond the Italian old masters. Their subjects’ angular postures, the inclusion of symbolic details, and the jewel-toned color palettes of their paintings also emulated early Netherlandish artists, including Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling, whose panels Rossetti and Holman Hunt admired in Bruges on an 1849 “Pre-Raphaelite pilgrimage.”
This exhibition marks the first time that these iconic artworks—including Van Eyck’s The Annunciation (ca. 1434/1436, National Gallery, Washington, DC) and Millais’ dazzling Mariana (1851, Tate, London)—will be on view for West Coast audiences.
More than 30 paintings will be on loan from 25 private collections and museums including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. The Pre-Raphaelites’ attraction to their artistic forebears was not just in painting; Truth and Beauty will also feature books, furniture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, tapestries, textiles, and works on paper. These multimedia arrangements will highlight the nuanced paradoxes of the Pre-Raphaelite mission, namely their efforts to be fundamentally modern by emulating the past, as well as their dichotomous criticism and veneration of Raphael and his artistic impact.
Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters is organized by Melissa Buron, Director of the Art Division at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
This dazzling book examines the inspiration behind the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and offers comparisons between the radical 19th-century artists and the masterworks they revered.
Started in the early 19th century by a group of British painters who rejected the sovereignty of the Royal Academy, the Pre-Raphaelites embraced the natural world and bright colors--as opposed to the dark palettes and amorphous lines that emerged in the wake of the Renaissance. Their mission was to be fundamentally modern by emulating the past. Now readers can appreciate their achievements in this volume that offers side-by-side comparisons of 19th-century masterpieces with the 15th- and 16th-century Early Italian and Early Netherlandish paintings that inspired them.
|Veronese (1528-1588), Lucretia, ca. 1580-1583. Oil on canvas, 42⅞ x 35⅝ inches. Gemälderie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (1561). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.|
Exquisite reproductions of works by Giotto, Fra Angelico, van Eyck, Botticelli, Titian, Veronese, and Raphael are presented alongside examples by William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and others. The book traces the evolution of the Pre-Raphaelites, and details how these painters were exposed to the early masters as they traveled and encountered the finest European collections.
The volume also features decorative arts, including stained glass and tapestries in emulation of Flemish and French textiles as well as "medievalized" ecclesiastic decorations. The result is an illuminating examination that delves into the Pre-Raphaelites' aesthetic vocabulary and broadens our understanding of their motives and inspiration.