Archive for the 'pictorial arts' Category

Lonrezo Lotto Portraits


For the past couple of years I’ve been working with Miguel Falomír, director of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and Professor Enrico Maria dal Pozzolo of the University of Verona, to bring you this exquisite exhibition of one of the greatest portraitists of the Western tradition, Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1557). It gives me great pleasure finally to see it open in Madrid tomorrow, where it will remain till 30 September before travelling to London for a more concise showing between 5 November and 10 February. It includes a large, varied selection of his portraits as well as a number of objects of the kind he depicted with such care in them — jewellery, books, sculptures, clothing, carpets… — for what I hope will function of an extension of portraiture and our understanding of it into so-called material culture.

Lotto is one of the great idiosyncratic artists of the Renaissance, painting like nobody else. His religious paintings are full of energy, humour, and a striking down-to-earth pathos, as are his portraits which are amongst the most varied and empathetic of the period. Itinerant for most of his life, he found the greatest success in his early career in Treviso in the first decade and especially Bergamo in the second, though he continued to produce fascinating, personal work through his late, depressed years.

Rarely able to attract the kind of elite clientele that was available to his great contemporary Titian, he distinguished himself for posterity by painting mostly the emerging bourgeoisie, the demographic that would increasingly dominate European politics, economy and culture down to the present day. His portraits seem remarkably frank, warts-and-all without being ostentatious about it, and as mentioned deeply empathetic. His sitters always invariably appear interesting to us, as if the artist is bringing forward their unique qualities for us to contemplate, not just on their behalf but on the behalf of humanity.

Conceived by Miguel and consolidated by Enrico, who is one of the premier Lotto specialists working today, the exhibition is one to which I’ve contributed mostly as a junior partner, but I am proud of the results, also of my own labour on it. The Prado has produced the catalogue, which we hope will stand as a significant contribution to Lotto scholarship, as well as an easy to access introduction to his activities as a portraitist and the historical and social context within which he worked. I’ve contributed the entries on the portrait drawings and the National Gallery’s three Lotto portraits, among other things. Do seek it out if you’re interested, and most importantly go see the exhibition. Please note that the exhibition is significantly larger at the Prado, which is definitely the place to see it for completists and specialists, while it will be more select, but hopefully no less beautiful and poignant at the National Gallery.

Enjoy!

Leonardo i Information


I den forgangne weekends bogtillæg til Information har jeg skrevet en anmeldelse af Taschens nyudgivelse af kunsthistoriker Frank Zöllners monografi og oeuvrekatalog over Leonardo da Vincis malerier fra 2003. Den nye udgave udmærker sig ved et nyt forord, der giver en overflyvning af den bemærkelsesværdige udvikling, der er sket i Leonardo-forskningen siden da, først og fremmest med en grundig gennemgang af Verdens Dyreste Kunstværk (TM), Salvator Mundi (ovenfor), der som bekendt blev solgt på auktion sidste år for $450 millioner og efter sigende snart vil blive udstillet på det nyåbnede Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Grundlæggende er bogudgivelsen en opportunistisk, om end en som altid smukt illustreret, lappeløsning fra Taschens side, men den giver anledning til nogle overvejelser netop over hvor vi er i Leonardo-forskningen, samt nogle tanker om hvorfor Leonardo er verdens mest berømte kunstner. Læs bag paywallen her.

Picasso 1932 i Weekendavisen

Kvinde i rød lænestol, 1932, Paris, Musée Picasso


Ugen går på hæld, men jeg synes alligevel jeg lige ville gøre opmærksom på at seneste udgave af Weekendavisen indeholder min anmeldelse af den fantastiske Picasso-udstilling der lige nu kan ses på Tate Modern i London. Den er tilmed tilgængelig gratis på nettet her (farverne er helt i skoven, desværre). Læs, og se udstillingen hvis du kan!

Ovenfor har jeg reproduceret et af de billeder, jeg beskriver i detaljer og som redaktøren ikke kunne finde plads til. Supplement!

The Renaissance in Six Pictures

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434


A bit late here with this, but still thought I’d post it: as part of the BBC Civilisations Festival, which is approaching the end of its run, I wrote this piece on the European Renaissance, in which I try to convey as sense of its meaning and significance through close looking at six pictures from the National Gallery’s collection (the Gallery is a partner in the festival). 200 words each. Not easy, especially considering that, whether you like it or not, any such endeavour will be made in the ghostly shade of Kenneth Clark, whose original 1969 documentary series is still at high watermark in television about art, ideological criticisms be damned. Oh yeah, this all is of course prompted by the current revival of the concept at the BBC with their Civilisations, which so far I’ve found more admirable than inspiring, but still well worth watching for the many insights and the passion of its three hosts and its occasionally inspired editing.

Michelangelo in the Burlington


This month’s issue of The Burlington Magazine (vol. 60, #1378) includes my lengthy review of Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, still on for another week at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (until 12 February). Here’s a short, summary excerpt:

A curatorial triumph, with individual exhibits
selected with confidence and intelligence, the exhibition
offers an exceptional opportunity to understand and appreciate
Michelangelo’s art and creative mind at the most intimate level.
However, while this well suits those ready to devote a long
time to it, one wonders whether, for the more casual visitor, so
comprehensive an approach through sheer accumulation might
flatten the impact of individual objects – many of which would
be centrepieces in other displays.

In it, I also discuss the very forceful attribution to Michelangelo that curator Carmen C. Bambach advances for the picture illustrated above, from the Kimbell. Ostensibly Michelangelo’s first painting — executed in when he was a pre-teen or in his early teens — it is a compelling work that could be by him, but about which I am not alone in habouring certain doubts.

Anyway, read the Burlington at your local art library!

Michelangelo i Weekendavisen

Siddende mandling model, ca. 1510+12, Wien, Albertina


I dennes uges udgave af Weekendavisen anmelder jeg den store Michelangelo-udstilling på The Metropolitan Museum of Art i New York og gør mig i den forbindelse nogle tanker om Michelangelos næsten eksklusive fokus på kroppen i sin kunst. Læs avisen, hvis I har mulighed for det!

Christmas odds and ends


So it’s nearly Christmas and I realise that I’ve been running behind even on the self-promotion (such as it is) in here. Fear not, I’ll have you caught up in no time, or just in time to wish you a merry one.

ITEM My exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano, which showed at the National Gallery last spring, was nominated for Exhibition of the Year at the Apollo Awards. Although we were beaten for the award by the amazing Raphael exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, it was needless to say an honour to be considered. I am proud of the work we did, warts and all, and hope some of you had the chance to come see it.

ITEM Speaking of Michelangelo and Raphael, they are — of course — two parts of the ‘Big Three’ constellation we are currently showing in room 20 at the National. The Royal Academy generously lent us Michelangelo’s Taddei tondo for Michelangelo and Sebastiano and have let us keep it till the end of January while they’re renovating and preparing its new display in time for their anniversary. For various reasons, my full online interpretation treatment on went live a few weeks ago. You can look at it here, and you can of course watch my Facebook Live introduction — previously posted – here.

Cornelis Cort after design by Titian, The Annunciation, second state, c. 1566, engraving


ITEM I reviewed Peter Lüdemann’s Tiziano. Le botteghe e la grafica in the December issue of The Burlington Magazine. on the use of graphic media in the Titian workshop. A stimulating if slightly incoherent book, which at times skirts the difficult issues but nevertheless collates little-studied material in enlightening ways. Here are my concluding remarks:

Lüdemann’s book is a welcome
addition to the literature. In addition
to providing the first analytical overview of
print production both in Titian’s workshop
and outside it, its central argument about
collaboration is strong. Titian himself never
cut, engraved or etched, which means that
any consideration of prints relating to his
output necessarily involves his workshop
practice and his arrangements with fellow
artists, printmakers and printers. It should
be obvious to any reader of this flawed but
fascinating book that the prints, and indeed
the drawings relating to them or otherwise
analogous to their function, are a particularly
illuminating key to a better understanding
of Titian’s work as a whole.

Read it at your local art library!

ITEM Our Christmas video series at The National Gallery this year focuses on gold as its theme. I participated briefly (see above) in the section devoted to the gilding of frames, discussing with our Head of Framing Peter Schade the spectacular altarpiece frame he created for the Gallery’s Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano and Michelangelo, which debuted in the aforementioned exhibition and is now on view around the painting in the Gallery’s room 8.

Merry Christmas!

The Big 3 at The National Gallery


With the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition closed at National Gallery we are privileged to hold on to Michelangelo’s marble Taddei Tondo from the Royal Academy until the end of January, while they complete the bicentennial refurbishment. This has given us the opportunity to show the sculpture along with a number of paintings from our collection by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, the three foundational figures of what we have come to know as the High Renaissance.

The display is on in room 20 of the North Galleries, smack dab in the middle of our new display of Dutch and Flemish seventeenth-century paintings, incongruously but necessarily because of logistics. If you’re in London, I encourage you to visit what I think is a compelling display telling the story of the creative and, to a lesser extent, personal interrelations of these three very different giants of art.

If you wish to know more, do check my introduction to the display via Facebook Live.

Rafael i Weekendavisen


I dagens udgave af Weekendavisen anmelder jeg den store — og fantastiske! — udstilling af Rafael-tegninger på The Ashmolean Museum i Oxford (til 3 september) og gør mig nogle tanker om hvad Rafaels tegninger fortæller os om hans særlige geni — et, der har gjort ham til det nok bedste bud på den vestlige traditions kvintessentielle kunstner.

Læs anmeldelsen her, eller i avisen hvor den er bedre illustreret. Og se udstillingen hvis I kan!

Sortkridtstegningen ovenfor er fra ca. 1519–20 og tilhører The Ashmolean Museum. Jeg diskuterer den i anmeldelsen.

Hype: New Reviews

Krazy Kat Sunday page 6 October, 1940


Over at The Comics Journal I’ve just had my rather long, unfocused… er, discursive review of Michael Tisserand’s major new biography Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White published. Herriman’s Krazy Kat is widely, and for pretty good reasons, regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time, and really should also be considered on of the great, distinct works of art of the twentieth century, in my opinion. I have some thoughts about the strip, as well as assorted other comics embedded in the review. Anyway, check it out.

Oh, and in the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine you can read my review of Claudia Bertling Biaggini’s book on Sebastiano del Piombo, Felix Pictor.

Happy Easter


I hope you are all well. If you’re in London, do consider visiting my exhibition, Michelangelo & Sebastiano, at the National Gallery. It includes the juxtaposition, above, of Michelangelo’s two Risen Christs. I naturally recommend it.

Michelangelo & Sebastiano


In a couple of weeks’ time, on 15 March, the exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano opens at the National Gallery (trailer above). As its curator, I’ve worked on it for the past two and a half years and of course look forward to people seeing it.

Briefly, it aims to be a focused show, examining the extraordinary friendship and collaboration between Michelangelo (1475-1564) and the Venetian painter and expat to Rome Sebastiano Luciani, known to posterity as Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547). Michelangelo is not known for his ability or willingness to collaborate, in part due to his own efforts in his later years to play down any such activity, but also because he genuinely worked best alone, or with assistants who were essentially subservient to him.

Remarkably, the partnership with Sebastiano, which started in late 1511 and lasted on-off, and mostly in long-distance form — Michelangelo in Florence and Sebastiano in Rome — between 1516 and 1534, was essentially a collaboration among equals. Yes, it was asymmetrical, as one would expect of any collaboration involving one of the greatest artists who ever lived, but each of the two men brought their unique ideas and sensibilities to their joint projects. Essentially, Michelangelo would provide Sebastiano with drawings which he would use in his paintings, but in many different ways and often quite independently of any oversight from Michelangelo. Sebastiano was hugely influenced by Michelangelo and spent most of his career assimilating his example, but he did so in his own, highly original fashion.

At the time of their falling-out in 1536, apparently over the choice of medium (oil or fresco) that Michelangelo would use for the Sistine Last Judgment — the great project that had brought him back to Rome, Sebastiano had developed a monumental, uniquely still and intensely spiritual style of painting that would prove immensely influential of painters of the following generations, not just in Rome but across Europe, from Caravaggio to Poussin and even Zurbarán.


Anyway, all this and much more — including the dramatic historical context, one of upheaval, war, schism and theological and artistic rejuvenation — will be explored in the exhibition and in its catalogue, which is shipping from its distributor as of yesterday. Edited by me, it features scholarship by, among others, Costanza Barbieri, Paul Joannides, Piers Baker-Bates, Silvia Danesi Squarzina and Timothy Verdon. Read more (and purchase) here.

Celebrating Paul Joannides

It was a great pleasure, in the run-up to Christmas, to announce the publication of the latest issue of the art history anthology Artibus et Historiae, which is a special issue dedicated to Professor Paul Joannides, formerly of the University of Cambridge, now Emeritus.

I was one of the guest editors of this project, working with a group of Paul’s former students and friends to put together a publication that we thought he would enjoy, a Festschrift to mark his retirement a few years ago, but beyond that of course his significance as a scholar and teacher in his field. It was all kept a secret and took about two years. We’re proud of the publication and happy in this way to honour a great teacher, mentor and person.

The list of contributors includes many of Paul’s friends and colleagues, some who have known him for most of their lives and some who only got to know him in recent years, as his last students. The list of contents can be perused through the link above.

I managed to contribute an article myself. Here’s the abstract: Continue reading ‘Celebrating Paul Joannides’

Merry Christmas from the National Gallery

This is the kind of thing that helps me cope. Apologies for any awkwardness!

What I’ve been up to


It seems increasingly meaningless these days, right? Yet, these are some of the things I’ve been up to over the last month or so.

ITEM at Apollo Magazine online a few weeks ago, I wrote an appreciation of the great Harewood Titian drawing (above), which is currently under temporary export bar and risks leaving the UK for an overseas home if a matching offer isn’t met before 20 December.

ITEM In the latest National Gallery Technical Bulletin (vol. 37), Chris Fischer, Rachel Billinge and I analyse new technical evidence concerning Fra Bartolommeo’s Virgin Adoring the Child with St Joseph in the National Gallery’s collection. Newly recorded infrared reflectograms reveal underdrawing that straddles the gap between his disciplined Florentine training and the flowering lyrical undercurrent in his work that was stimulated so decisively by his visit to Venice in 1508. We also publish a series of replicas/copies of the composition, including the one in Brescia and a previously unknown one in a private collection, both probably made in his San Marco workshop. The issue also contains articles on Dutch seventeenth-century flower painting, Daubigny and Van Gogh. Consult at your art library or wait till the content is made available online.

ITEM The latest volume of Studi Tizianeschi (no. IX) contains my review of Tom Nichols’ flawed but occasionally stimulating book Titian and the End of the Venetian Renaissance. But don’t get it for that — the issue contains Paul Joannides’ and Jane Turner’s long-awaited and magisterial examination of Titian’s and his workshop’s many versions of the quintessential Venus and Adonis composition, a material that would pose a heroic challenge to any Titian connoisseur. There are other interesting articles on Titian-related matters too, naturally. Again, check it out at your library or order here.


ITEM a couple of my comics reviews have been published in Information (in Danish). Firstly, it concerns the Danish omnibus-like edition of Simon Hanselman’s bleakly funny and deranged comics about Megg, Mogg and Owl (above). It predates last year’s Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam, but pretty much every strip he made prior to that is in it. Next up is Drømme i tynd luft (‘Dreams in Thin Air’), a comics documentary on the formation of the first Tibetan national football team told by the Danish idealist who helped it happen, Michael Magnus Nybrandt and illustrated by the talented Thomas Engelbrecht Mikkelsen. It’s a fascinating story, but the comic lacks dramatic and psychological interest, despite a few inspired passages. Anyway, even if you don’t read Danish, you may be able soon to see for yourself, as several international editions are in the works.

ITEM Oh, and I’m back writing story notes in the Fantagraphics Carl Barks series, which is of course fantastic fun. In the latest book, I wrote about the so-called ‘Donald Duck Rants about Ants’ — a true horror comedy steeped in 1950s paranoia as only Barks can do it. But, you know, get it — and the series — for the comics.