Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Unusual plumbonacrite mineral resides in Rembrandt's impasto

Rembrandt van Rijn's paintings are renowned for their masterful representations of light and shadow and a characteristic plasticity generated by a technique called impasto. Now, scientists have analyzed impasto layers in some of Rembrandt's paintings, and the study, which is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, reveals that the impasto unexpectedly contains a very rare lead mineral called plumbonacrite. This finding suggests that Rembrandt used a unique paint recipe.

"Before the study, one of the only [pieces of] information about impastos was that they were achieved using lead white pigment," says Victor Gonzalez at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, who is a leading author of the study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the Institut de Recherche de Chimie Paris, France, as well as French and Dutch Universities. "However, the precise recipe that Rembrandt used to achieve his impastos was not known," he adds.

Lead white has been used in paintings since ancient times and, even today, its painterly properties still exceed those of its less toxic analogues. At the time Rembrandt created his artworks, lead white was produced by corrosion of metallic lead, resulting in the formation of a mixture of lead carbonates containing cerussite (lead carbonate, PbCO(3)) and hydrocerussite (Pb(3)(CO(3))(2)·(OH)(2)), which is a shiny white, mixable, and fast-drying powder.

For their analysis, the scientists sampled tiny amounts of impasto paint layers in


Rembrandt's Portrait of Marten Soolmans of 1634,

Susanna, 1634,

and Bathseba, 1654.

Using a combination of synchrotron X-ray diffraction at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, they identified hydrocerussite and cerussite, but surprisingly, they also found another lead mineral, plumbonacrite. "Plumbonacrite is extremely rare in historic paint layers," explained the authors. "Its more notable occurrence was linked to degradation of the red lead (minimum) pigment in a Van Gogh painting," they added.

In addition, the researchers detected plumbonacrite solely in the impasto layer, never in the layers below, and the other component of lead white, cerussite, was nearly absent. Why was the impasto chemical composition different from that of the underlayer although apparently the same pigments were used?

The scientists tried to find answers by following the chemistry of lead compounds. Plumbonacrite is only stable in alkaline (basic) environments. Under the acid production conditions of lead white, the mineral rapidly transforms into (hydro)cerussite. In contrast, a stable, highly basic lead mineral is litharge (PbO). Arguing that PbO was sometimes used as a binding additive at the time, the authors proposed that Rembrandt could have added PbO in the binder for his impasto. This would explain the composition of the white pigments. In a medium made alkaline by the litharge binder, lead carbonates would back-transform to plumbonacrite.

As a next step, the authors plan to investigate other Rembrandt paintings to check if the artist consistently used the same recipe. From the point of view of art history,

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture

The Frick
February 21 through June 2, 2019

Moroni, Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, called The Man in Pink, dated 1560, oil on canvas, Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo–Lucretia Moroni Collection; photo: Mauro Magliani

In Renaissance Italy, one of the aims of portraiture was to make the absent seem present through naturalistic representation of the sitter. This notion—that art can capture an individual exactly as he or she appears—is exemplified in the work of Giovanni Battista Moroni. The artist spent his entire career in and around his native Bergamo, a region in Lombardy northeast of Milan, and left a corpus of portraitsthat far outnumbers those of his contemporaries who worked in major artistic centers, including Titian in Venice and Bronzino in Florence. Though Moroni never achieved their fame, he innovated the genre of portraiture in spectacular ways. 

This winter and spring, the Frick presents the first major exhibition in North America devoted to his work, bringing together nearly two dozen of Moroni’s most arresting and best known portraits from international collections to explore the innovations and experiments that belie his masterful illusion of recording reality. They will be shown alongside a selection of complementary objects—Renaissance jewelry, textiles, arms and armor, and other luxury items—that exemplify the material and visual world that Moroni recorded, embellished, and transformed. 

Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture was organized by Aimee Ng, Associate Curator, The Frick Collection; Simone Facchinetti, Curator, Museo Adriano Bernareggi, Bergamo; and Arturo Galansino, Director General, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.

Presented in the Frick’s main floor Oval Room and East Gallery, this exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue and series of public programs. Creator of both religious paintings and portraits, Moroni is best known for works that seem to capture his sitters exactly as they appeared before him.

According to an anecdote first published in 1648 in Carlo Ridolfi’s Le meraviglie dell’arte, Titian, when approached by a group of would-be patrons, recommended that they instead sit for Moroni, praising his ritratti di naturale (portraits from life).The naturalism for which Moroni was most acclaimed, however, also became a point of criticism: his apparent faithfulness to his models caused some to dismiss him as a mere copyist of nature, an artist without “art”—that is, without selection, editing, or adherence to ideals of beauty.

Bernard Berenson derided him in 1907 as an uninventive portraitist who “gives us sitters no doubt as they looked.” Subsequent scholars restored his reputation; the art historian Roberto Longhi, for example, in 1953 praised Moroni’s “documents” of society that were unmediated by style, crediting him with a naturalism that anticipated Caravaggio.

But Moroni’s characterization as an artist who faithfully recorded the world around him—whether understood as a positive quality or a weakness—has obscured his creativity and innovation as a portraitist.Moroni was born in the early 1520s in Albino, a small city less than ten miles from Bergamo. Although it was part of the Venetian Republic during the sixteenth century, Bergamo was geographically—and, in some ways, culturally—closer to the Duchy of Milan, then under Spanish rule. Thus, Moroni encountered sitters, fashions, and luxury goods from both Milan and Venice, which were both significant points of access to larger international markets, communities, and cultures. In the early 1540s, Moroni trained in Brescia in the workshop of Moretto da Brescia. 

The paintings of Lorenzo Lotto, who spent more than a decade in Bergamo in the first quarter of the Cinquecento, were also a significant influence. 

After brief periods in Trent during the late 1540s and early 1550s, Moroni worked from the mid-1550s predominantly in his native Albino and Bergamo, providing local clientele with religious paintings and breathtakingly lifelike portraits. He achieved his characteristic naturalism through exacting attention to detail, psychologically potent and vivid expressions, and a “warts and all” approach that, at times, resulted in seemingly unidealized portrayals.

Moroni, Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova, dated 1557, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915

For example, his Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova conveys with emphatic clarity his elderly sitter’s goiter, her sagging neck, wrinkled skin, and other features that do not conform to Renaissance ideals of female beauty. At the same time, she is as dignified as his most dashing cavalieri, including the celebrated Man in Pink.

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Isotta Brembati,
ca. 1555–56
Oil on canvas
63 x 45 1/4 inches
Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo
- Lucretia
Moroni Collection
Photo: Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Portrait of a Young Woman,
ca. 1575
Oil on canvas
20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches
Private collection
Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli,
Il Cavaliere in Rosa (The
Man in Pink),
dated 1560
Oil on canvas
85 x 48 3/8 inches
Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo- Lucretia
Moroni Collection
Photo: Mauro Magliani


Giovanni Battista Moroni
The Tailor (Il Sarto,
or Il Tagliapanni),
ca. 1570
Oil on canvas
39 1/8 x 30 1/4 inches
The National Gallery, London
Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Lucia Albani Avogadro,
La Dama in Rosso (The Lady in
ca. 1554–57
Oil on canvas
61 x 42 inches
The National Gallery, London
Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Faustino Avogadro,
Il Cavaliere dal Piede Ferito (The
Knight with the Wounded Foot),
ca. 1555–60
Oil on canvas
79 5/8 x 41 7/8 inches
The National Gallery, London
Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Bernardo Spini,
Oil on
77 1/2 x 38 5/8 inches
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Photo: Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Pace Rivola Spini,
ca. 1573
Oil on canvas
77 1/2
x 38 5/8 inches
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Photo: Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gian Ludovico Madruzzo,
ca. 1551-
Oil on canvas
78 5/8 x 45 5/8 inches
Art Institute of Chicago; Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester
The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gabriele Albani (?),
Oil on canvas
43 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches
Private collection

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Children,
Oil on canvas
49 3/8 x 38 5/8 inches
National Gallery of Ireland Collection; Purchased, 1866
Photo: National Gallery of Ireland

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Alessandro Vittoria,
ca. 1551
Oil on canvas
32 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches
Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches
Museum, Vienna
Photo: KHM-Museumsverband

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gabriel de la Cueva,
Oil on canvas
44 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Photo: Bildagentur / Staatliche Museen, Berlin / Jörg
P.Anders / Art Resource, NY

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Bearded Man with a Letter,
dated 1561
Oil on canvas
37 5/8 x 29 1/8 inches
Private collection, courtesy of Fabrizio Moretti
Photo: Courtesy of Alberto Sangalli/
© Gianni Canali

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Giovanni Bressani,
dated 1562
Oil on canvas
45 3/4 x 35 inches
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Purchased by
Private Treaty, 1977
Photo: National Galleries of Scotland

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Bust of Isotta Brembati,
ca. 1550
Oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 18 1/2 inches
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
Photo: Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Portrait of a Woman,
ca. 1575–79
Oil on canvas
19 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches
Private collection
Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Lay Brother with Fictive Frame,
ca. 1557
Oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 19 7/8 inches
Museum, Frankfurt
am Main

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Bust Portrait of a Young Man with an Inscription
, ca. 1560
Oil on canvas
18 5/8 x 15 5/8 inches
The National Gallery, London; Layard Bequest, 1916
Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and
Saint Michael,
ca. 1557-60
Oil on canvas,
35 1/4 x 38 1/2 inches
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Adolph D. andWilkins C. Williams Fund
Photo: ©Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond / Katherine

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child,
ca. 1555
Oil on canvas
23 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches
National Gallery of Art, Washington; Samuel H. Kress
Photo: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Christie's in New York: Old Master Prints 29 January, and Old Master & British Drawings 31 January.

Over 500 years of European art history will be presented in two sales at Christie's in New York this January: Old Master Prints on Tuesday, 29 January, and Old Master & British Drawings on Thursday, 31 January. Together, the sales offer an overview of the graphic arts from 1466 to 1880, ranging from Albrecht Dürer's bold woodcuts to the diaphanous watercolours of J.M.W. Turner, from late gothic engravings by the Master E.S. and Martin Schongauer to the virtuoso, mannerist draftsmanship of Polidoro da Caravaggio and Niccolò dell'Abate, from meticulous 16th century studies of flowers and insects by Jacques le Moyne de Morgues to the landscape etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn.

The highlights across the sales include works by some of the greatest artists of their time, such as Lucas van Leyden, Primaticcio, Parmigianino, Sofonisba Anguissola, Canaletto, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Francisco de Goya, Thomas Girtin and many others. With estimates starting from $700, the two auctions will give the newcomer and the passionate collector ample opportunity for discoveries and long-desired acquisitions.


The Old Master Prints sale on 29 January starts off with an outstanding selection of 15th century prints, including three important, early engravings from the Collection of Herschel V. and Carl W. Jones, Minneapolis. The most remarkable work of these three is the The Madonna of Einsiedeln: Large Version by the Master E.S. (active circa 1450-67) ($300,000 - 500,000), one of first great artists in the history of European printmaking and the first to sign his works. The Madonna of Einsiedeln is arguably his most sophisticated composition and only thirteen impressions have survived. The present one is the last in private hands and comes with notable provenance.

Also from the Jones Collection comes a superb, rich impression of The Death of the Virgin by Martin Schongauer (circa 1445-1491) ($200,000-300,000), in exceptionally good condition and with impeccable provenance, as well as a rare example of an early engraved playing card, Israhel van Meckenem’s (1440-1503) The King of Men, from: The Large Deck of Playing Cards, circa 1465-1500 ($30,000-50,000). It is one of only three known impressions and comes originally from the collection of the Dukes of Sachsen-Gotha.

Herschel V. Jones was one of the most important collectors of prints and museum patrons in the United States in the first part of the 20th century. In 1916, he acquired the collection of Western prints of William Mead Ladd (1855-1931) of Portland, Oregon, which he donated in its entirety, approximately 5,300 prints, to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, thus laying the foundation for a Print Department - their Print Room still bears his name today.

Following on from these and other late medieval treasures, the sale features several of the most celebrated works of European printmaking, including Albrecht Dürer's famous woodcut The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from: The Apocalypse, circa 1497/98 ($250,000-350,000) in a stunning impression in near-perfect condition; the largest of all his engravings, Saint Eustace, circa 1501 (estimate on request);


Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, (1606-1669), Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape etching and drypoint, circa 1653. Estimate: $300,000-400,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019

and two of the most desirable etchings by Rembrandt (1606-1669): Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape, circa 1653 ($300,000-400,000), one of the great prints of Rembrandt's most innovative, later period; and The Three Trees, 1643, the artist’s largest and most ambitious etched landscape ($250,000-350,000).

The sale also offers exquisite and rare works by lesser-known, but no less talented and interesting artists, such as Lucas van Leyden, Hans Sebald Beham, Wenceslaus Hollar, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco de Goya and Jean-Etienne Liotard, amongst many more. The sale is rounded off with a good selection of chiaroscuro woodcuts, a group of rare prints of the School of Fontainebleau, and some unusual artists’ portraits of the 18th and 19th century.

Polidoro Caldara called Polidoro da Caravaggio, (Caravaggio 1499-1543 Messina) Design for a banner with Saint Mark and two friars black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white on greenish-blue paper. Estimate: $200,000 - 300,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.

The Old Masters & British Drawings sale on 31 January will offer a strong selection of Italian drawings featuring a rare, late work by Polidoro da Caravaggio from a private collection, Design for a banner with Saint Mark and two friars ($200,000-300,000).

Two Renaissance works created by Italian artists working in France: Niccolò dell'Abate’s Conversion of Saul ($100,000-150,000) and Francesco Primaticcio’s Polymnestor killing Polydorusis, which is a significant addition to the artist’s drawn oeuvre ($100,000-150,000). Rounding out the group is Canaletto’s A capriccio with an ancient tomb monument to the left, and a watermill to the right ($100,000150,000) and Pietro da Cortona’s vibrant black chalk drawing Study of a nymph, her arms outstretched, a work commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinand II de’ Medici for the ceiling fresco of the Sala di Apollo at Palazzo Pitti, Florence ($180,000-250,000).

The selection of British drawings are led by Lake Lucerne, with the Rigi by Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A., depicting the beautiful Swiss motif he obsessively returned to in his late career ($200,000-300,000) and Thomas Girtin’s St. Paul’s Cathedral from St. Martin’s-le-Grand, London ($180,000-250,000). Among the works offered by French artists, the sale features a rare suite of five botanical drawings by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, including Two narcissi and a columbine, a dragonfly and a stag beetle ($80,000-120,000), and Hubert Robert’s A Roman capriccio with a ruined rotunda ($30,000-50,000), a large watercolor from the prestigious Desmarais Collection.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Charles White : Monumental Practice

David Zwirner
January 8—February 16, 2019
David Zwirner is presenting a significant group of works by American artist Charles White (1918–1979) on the second floor of the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location in New York. On view for the first time since the 1970s will be four monumentally scaled ink and charcoal drawings made by the artist as studies for the figures in ]


his mural Mary McLeod Bethune, completed in 1978 for the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, as well as related preparatory works and ephemera documenting the project—White’s last major artistic endeavor during his lifetime.

White’s prodigious body of work, spanning prints, drawings, paintings, and murals, demonstrates a commitment to African American social causes, combatting racial and economic injustice with depictions of strength and resolve. His detailed, bold images of individuals and their relationships resonate universally, and yet remain grounded by his interest in history and his personal interpretation of truth, beauty, and dignity. As an artist, educator, and political activist, White was an integral part of the intellectual milieu in his hometown of Chicago, and later in New York and Los Angeles. During his time in LA, where he permanently relocated in 1956, White taught at the Otis Art Institute, where he mentored and influenced a younger generation of artists, including Kerry James Marshall and David Hammons.

In 1976, White was commissioned by the city of Los Angeles to create a large-scale painting for the Exposition Park library branch as part of a building ordinance that designated 1% of new construction budgets for art. Related to his earlier work in the mural division of the Works Progress Administration in Chicago in the 1940s, the resulting mural, finished one year prior to White’s death, can be seen as a culmination of several lifelong themes and still hangs at the library today. The mural pays tribute to an important black educator, civil and women’s rights leader, and government official, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955), whom White greatly admired and respected. The commission, White’s first mural since his WPA years, brought together his individual interest in teaching, learning, and research, alongside his enduring commitment to collective education and social consciousness.

The four large-scale ink and charcoal compositions at the center of this exhibition are the largest drawings that the artist created and—although they were intended as preparatory works—are exceptional in their level of finish and detail. White conceived of the foursome of multigenerational figures that comprises the mural’s composition as a black "family," with the individual figure standing in as a symbolic representation of learning, education, music, or culture. Each is isolated and realized individually in the charcoal studies, in which space is clearly defined to indicate how they fit together in the larger mural, with Bethune—a towering presence wearing flowing robes—at the center.

Also on view will be several smaller drawn and painted preparatory works, as well as a range of ephemera and archival documentation related to the project. Seen in conjunction with the critically acclaimed retrospective of White’s work organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (on view through January 13, 2019), this focused examination of White’s Mary McLeod Bethune mural will provide a fitting coda to his outsized influence and legacy in American art.

In conjunction with Charles White: Monumental Practice, the gallery will also present a selection of the artist’s paintings and drawings, dating from the 1930s through the 1950s, a significant period for the development of his social realist aesthetic. These works demonstrate White’s unwavering commitment to realism and thus underscore the central values of his practice. "To him," as Kellie Jones notes, realism "presented an art language that was understandable worldwide. Above all, the ‘communicability’ of the representational was key, ‘how it reflects the great experience of life and singles out that which is most significant and meaningful to its process’; these are portrayals of the subtle and daily human struggles for peace and freedom."1

1Kellie Jones, South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017), pp. 31–32.

Edvard Munch: love and angst

The British Museum 
April 11 to July 21, 2019

This April, the British Museum will present a major new exhibition on the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Edvard Munch: love and angst will focus on Munch’s remarkable and experimental prints – an art form which made his name and at which he excelled throughout his life – and will examine his unparalleled ability to depict raw human emotion. It will be the largest exhibition of Munch’s prints in the UK for 45 years.

Self-portrait with skeleton arm, Edvard Munch

The exhibition is a collaboration with Norway’s Munch Museum, and includes nearly 50 prints from their collection, one of the biggest loans of prints the Oslo-based Museum has given internationally. Displayed alongside important Munch works from the British Museum collection and other loans from the UK and Europe, the 83 artworks on show will together demonstrate the artist’s skill and creativity in expressing the feelings and experiences of the human condition – from love and desire, to jealousy, loneliness, anxiety and grief.

The Scream, 1895, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Private Collection, Norway. Photo: Thomas Widerberg

A major highlight of the exhibition will be Munch’s The Scream which is one of the most iconic images in art history. The British Museum will display a rare lithograph in black and white which Munch created following a painted version and two drawings of the image. It was this black and white print which was disseminated widely during his lifetime and made him famous. Few copies survive and this will be the first time any version of The Scream will have been on show in the UK for a decade.

Edvard Munch. Vampire II (Vampyr II). 1895; signed 1897

Other highlights of the exhibition include the eerie but remarkable Vampire II which is generally considered to be one of his most elaborate and technically accomplished prints;

the controversial Madonna, an erotic image which features an explicit depiction of swimming sperm and a foetus and provoked outrage at the time;

and Head by Head which is a stunning print representing the complex relationship between human beings.

All three of these prints will be displayed alongside their original matrix (the physical objects which Munch used to transfer ink onto paper) which have never been seen in the UK before. Matrices are usually lost, but Munch was determined to keep control of his. It is rare to be able to show these alongside the prints of such a famous artist.

Edvard Munch, "Angst (Anxiety)," 1896, lithograph, painted in color

The exhibition will also show how Munch’s artistic vision was shaped by the radical ideas expressed in art, literature, science and theatre in Europe during his lifetime. His most innovative period of printmaking, between the 1890s and the end of the First World War, coincided with a great period of societal change in Europe which Munch experienced through constant travel across the continent on the vast rail network.

The exhibition will pay particular attention to three European cities that had major influence on him and his printmaking – Kristiania (Oslo), Paris and Berlin.

A small selection of Munch’s personal postcards and maps will be used to give a flavour of Munch’s journeys.

Edvard Munch is regarded as one the greatest artists of the early 20th century, and was a pioneer of modern art. Born near Kristiania (today’s Oslo) in 1863, his childhood was plagued by family death and illness. His later life saw him lead a bohemian lifestyle and was marked by frequent tumultuous love affairs.

Two key sections of the exhibition demonstrate his passion, but also his fear, of women.

 He was deeply influenced by contemporary ideas, thinkers and artists including Max Klinger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Henrik Ibsen and his work would go on to influence many other artists both during his lifetime and after his death in Oslo in 1944.

A number of works by other artists will be displayed here to highlight these links.

The Lonely Ones, 1899.  Edvard Munch(1863-1944), Munchmuseet

The Lonely Ones, 1899. Edvard Munch(1863-1944), Munchmuseet

Edvard Munch(1863-1944). Jealousy II, 1896. ©The Trustees of the British Museum
 This will be the first exhibition the British Museum has ever dedicated to Munch and visitors will be able to discover his vast body of remarkable work and the culture and society that influenced it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Turner in January

J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), Bell Rock Lighthouse, 1819. Watercolour and gouache with scratching out on paper, 30.60 x 45.50 cm. Collection: National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased by Private Treaty Sale 1989 with the aid of funds from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Pilgrim Trust.

A dramatic depiction of Robert Stevenson’s engineering marvel, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, by Britain’s most celebrated artist Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), will shine its light on the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS)’s seasonal exhibition Turner in January, which opens at the Scottish National Gallery on New Year’s Day. In 2019, this much-loved annual exhibition is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery for the seventh year.

In a tradition that stretches back more than a century, every January the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) displays an outstanding collection of Turner’s radiant watercolours, bequeathed in 1900 by one of the greatest connoisseurs of his work, Henry Vaughan (1809-1899). Conscious that limited exposure would preserve the brilliant colour and exceptional condition of the works, Vaughan stipulated in his will that his Turners should only ever be shown during the first month of the year, when daylight in Edinburgh is at its weakest. The display runs throughout January, providing a thoughtful counterpoint to the more energetic celebrations of Hogmanay, and a welcome injection of light and colour during the darkest time of the year.

This year, another outstanding Turner watercolour from the NGS collection will also be on show. Bell Rock Lighthouse was commissioned 200 years ago by the lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) to illustrate his book, Account of the Building of Bell Rock Lighthouse. Bell Rock is the oldest surviving rock lighthouse in the British Isles and Stevenson’s engineering masterpiece. First lit in 1811 and constructed at a cost of £61,331 using revolutionary building methods, it stands on a partially submerged reef off the Angus coast, regarded by sailors as among the most dangerous places on the east coast of Scotland. Turner’s spectacular watercolour shows the lighthouse standing proudly above the pounding waves, an indomitable symbol of Stevenson’s great achievement.

The 38 watercolours that make up the Vaughan Bequest, encapsulate Turner’s entire career, and were carefully chosen for their outstanding quality. Highlights including subtle and meticulous images of the 1790s, such as  

Rye, Sussex


and Lake Albano

and the spectacular Venetian views of 1840,


such as The Piazzetta, Venice

and Venice from the Laguna,

which capture the drama and explosive skies of late summer Adriatic storms.

Vaughan was just 21 when he inherited his fortune from his father, who had been a wealthy hat maker. During his lifetime Vaughan devoted himself to travel, collecting fine art and philanthropy and became known as a distinguished and generous collector, most notably for nineteenth-century British art, in particular Turner and Constable.

Born in London in 1775, Turner’s talent was evident from a remarkably young age – the gifted draughtsman was exhibiting works at the Royal Academy by the age of 15. He was a prolific, innovative and energetic artist who went on to exploit every possibility of the watercolour medium, travelling widely to capture stunning land- and seascapes. At first, Turner began his travels with sketching tours in England, Wales and Scotland, then later across Europe, where he gathered material for masterful watercolours and oil paintings.

Turner’s extraordinary command of watercolour technique is evident throughout the works in the bequest, from the delicacy and precision of his illustrations to the work of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), such as

Rhymer’s Glen, Abbotsford

and Loch Coruisk, Skye, 

 to the atmospheric light effects of his 1836 views of the Aosta valley in the Alps, including

Brenva Glacier from the slopes of Le Chetif above Courmayeur.

Christopher Baker, Director of European and Scottish Art and Portraiture at the National Galleries of Scotland said:
“Every January we are delighted to display Turner’s spectacular watercolours, donated with great generosity by the distinguished collector Henry Vaughan. This wonderful tradition has become the longest running single artist exhibition in the world. In 2019 it will be enriched with Turner’s splendid Bell Rock Lighthouse – an extraordinary depiction of Scotland’s seafaring past. Turner in January is the perfect antidote to the darkness of Edinburgh in winter.”

Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience: The Berger Print Collection

Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center in Savannah, Georgia.
March 15- June 30, 2019.

This spring, an exhibition of etchings by the Dutch seventeenth-century master, Rembrandt van Rijn, will be on view at Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center in Savannah, Georgia.

The impact of Judaism on the life and work of Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) is a remarkable and multifaceted story. Rembrandt lived and worked in Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. During his lifetime, he saw the city quadruple in both population and in geographical size, becoming one of Europe’s wealthiest and most vibrant cities. Amsterdam was also noted for its welcoming spirit toward immigrants, particularly the Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition.

“The theme of this exhibition is particularly relevant here in Savannah, home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the country. Savannah’s first Jewish settlers arrived in 1733, just a few months after the city was founded by James Edward Oglethorpe. These settlers fled from Europe to Georgia for many of the same reasons of persecution and discrimination that drove so many Jews to settle in Amsterdam during Rembrandt’s lifetime,” said Courtney McNeil, Telfair Museums’ Chief Curator & Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs.

Although Rembrandt never formally joined any church, he was an astute student of the Bible. At times, he turned to Jewish theologians for insight into his depictions of Old Testament imagery. He also hired models from the Jewish community and received commissions from Jewish patrons.
Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience: The Berger Print Collection showcases 21 etchings with Judaic subjects by Rembrandt and one drawing by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman (Dutch, 1583–1633). These works highlight the artist’s nuanced relationship with Amsterdam’s citizens of the Jewish faith, and the keen insights Rembrandt brought to interpretations of Old Testament Bible stories.

Rembrandt’s legacy as an etcher is characterized by the new and innovative techniques he introduced to printmaking. He broke with longstanding, traditional depictions of biblical narratives; instead, Rembrandt added emotional and psychological depth to his subjects through expressive faces, dramatic body language, and his bold use of shadow and light.

Rembrandt's etching and drypoint on laid paper titled
Rembrandt; Abraham and Isaac, 1645; B. 34, I/II (White & Boon only state); H. 214; etching and drypoint on laid paper 6 1/8 x 5 1/8 in; signed and dated lower left: Rembrant. / 1645; provenance: Howard and Fran Berger; to WRTMA, 2014

“Rembrandt’s etchings are truly masterful, and the incredible details of line and shadow must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. We are thrilled to be bringing such an important collection of Rembrandt prints to Savannah for our members and visitors to enjoy,” said McNeil.

Rembrandt's "Triumph of Mordecai"

Rembrandt’s “Triumph of Mordecai”

Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience: The Berger Print Collection is on view at the Jepson Center March 15- June 30, 2019.

 Rembrandt, Abraham’s Sacrifice, 1655. B. 35, I/I (White & Boon only state); H. 283. Etching on laid paper with pen and ink ruled lines, 6 1/8 x 5 ¼ in.

Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience: The Berger Print Collection is organized by Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California. The presentation of this exhibition at Telfair Museums is curated by Courtney McNeil, Chief Curator & Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs.