Archive for the 'pictorial arts' Category

Poetry in Paint: A Titian Conference at the National Gallery


This November, we staging a large virtual conference devoted to Titian’s late mythological paintings at the National Gallery. Organised by Thomas Dalla Costa and myself on the occasion of the exhibition Titian: Love Desire Death, which is still on view at Trafalgar Square (until 17 January), it will bring together scholars, conservators and scientists from Europe and North America to speak on a wide variety of topics relating to Titian and his mythological paintings, from technique to meaning and the wider context: from politics and identity to sex and violence!

The conference It will also feature four artist’s talks, with Nalini Malani, Michael Armitage, Phoebe Gloeckner and Tom de Freston — all reflecting on what Titian means to their practice and how they grapple with the enduring issues so central to his work.

The dates are 3, 10 and 17 November. You can see the full programme and register here.

Den magiske spinel i Information


Min anmeldelse af Peter Wandel og Rasmus Meislers tegneserie Den magiske spinel kan læses i fredagens bogtillæg til Information eller online her, hvis du betaler. Det er en kompetent men McGraphic novel-agtig tegneserie, der primært er sat i verden for at højne opmærksomheden omkring Davids samling i København, hvilket bestemt er en værdig sag — Davids samling er en perle i dansk kulturliv, en samling på absolut internationalt niveau. Besøg!

Titian Behind Closed Doors at the BBC


The BBC2 documentary Titian Behind Closed Doors, directed by Matthew Hill, aired on the BBC on Saturday night. It’s a treatment of Titian’s relationship with Philip II, the king of Spain, and the series of mythological paintings, the so-called poesie, that he painted for him. It coincides with our now-shuttered exhibition, Titian Love Desire Death, at The National Gallery. I was involved in pitching it to the BBC and gave an interview for it, but have not otherwise been involved. I recommend taking a look if you’re interested in the subject — it covers a lot of ground on a complex and rich topic. If you have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can watch it here for the next twenty-odd days.

Titian at the National Gallery


Before the world went sideways, I was working on an exhibition, Titian Love Desire Death, uniting seven masterpieces of mythological paintings by Titian (about 1488-1576) at the National Gallery. We managed to open the exhibition on 16 March. Three days later it closed along with the rest of the Gallery which was one of the last European institutions of its kind to do so. We have no idea when we will be able to reopen again and therefore whether we will be able to share this extraordinary collection of paintings with the public before they have to be packed and shipped onwards. I wrote about this situation for Apollo Magazine last week.


Titian called these pictures poesie in order to emphasise the inspiration he had taken from classical poetry and the ambition to have them work as visual poems. The group of six canvases were executed for Philip of Habsburg, King Philip II of Spain from 1556, between about 1551 and 1562, while a seventh was never sent and only completed towards the end of the artist’s life. The six have not been seen together since, probably, the 1570s, and the seventh has never been displayed with the rest of the group. This was a dream project, not just of mine but any Titian or Italian renaissance enthusiast for generations.


I have been privileged to play a part in its realisation and hope you will want to take a closer look, if not in person at the National Gallery, then perhaps at one of our partnering venues: the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Museo del Prado in Madrid or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, to where the paintings will tour, if all goes well and the pandemic doesn’t get in the way of that too. And if not there, then perhaps virtually — we will doing our best to share our knowledge and appreciation online over the next months, in part under the #MuseumFromHome tag. Also, there will be a documentary dedicated to Titian and the poesie, in which I participate, broadcast on BBC 2 on 4 April and I believe Mary Beard will be featuring the works on Front Row Late sometime soon as well. Will post links in here when and if.

Our exhibition film is based on the BBC’s footage, a taster of which can be seen in the following short video on the paired Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto:

Here is a Facebook Live I did on 16 March, before we opened to the public. It was done under the worrying shadow of Covid-19 so bear with the slight incoherence. In the run-up to the exhibition my colleagues and I also did a series of FacebookLives on the individual paintings — they can be accessed here.

A creative decision that we made early in the process and which I was particularly happy with was to reframe Philip’s six pictures in matching frames in order to harmonise the display. Handcarved in the National Gallery framing department by Peter Schade, our Head of Framing and his team, they are based on the original sixteenth-century frame around Titian’s late Pietà at the Accademia in Venice. Check out this nice video the Gallery produced on the project:

They *are* such wonderful paintings.

Carmen Bambachs Leonardo i Information

Studier af et barn med en kat, ca. 1478-81, London, British Museum


I dagens bogtillæg til Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af inspektør ved Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York og Leonardo-ekspert Carmen Bambachs monumentale bogværk Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered. Det har været små 25 år undervejs og er en forskningsmæssig bedrift af de sjældne, sprængfyldt med detailobservationer og filologiske synteser, men det er også en anelse tungt at danse med og mangler en rød tråd. Jeg skriver blandt andet:

…Bambach er ikke maleriekspert, hun er specialist i renæssancens tegnekunst, et område på hvilket der kun er få, hvis viden kan måle sig med hendes. Den genopdagelse af en af verdens mest berømte kunstnere, som bogværkets titel lover, ligger i hendes objektnære behandling af mesterens arbejder på papir. Hun er ikke interesseret i store overordnede teser og konklusioner, men snarere i den rigdom, der findes i detaljen. Hun ser ting, ingen andre har lagt mærke til, og i modsætning til mange kolleger, som går mere selektivt til stoffet, skyer hun ikke de ofte dybt komplicerede tekniske eller filologiske spørgsmål, det kaster af sig.

Alt dette gør hendes arbejde tungt at danse med for den alment interesserede læser, men uvurderligt for fagfolk – selv om formatet er monografisk og præsentationen kronologisk, fungerer det således bedst som opslagsværk.

Læs hele min anmeldelse her, mod betaling. Eller giv dig i kast med projektet, der dannede grundlaget, Bambachs store katalog til den fantastiske udstilling hun arrangerede om mesteren på Metropolitan Museum i 2003.

Fra Angelico i Weekendavisen

Madonna og barnet med granatæble, ca. 1526, Madrid, Museo del Prado.


Ach, jeg glemte det i skyndingen, men i denne uges udgave af Weekendavisen, som kom i fredags, kan man læse min anmeldelse af den fremragende udstilling af den store florentinske fjortenhundredetalsmaler Fra Angelico på Prado-museet i Madrid. Hvis du skal til Madrid, må du endelig ikke gå glip af den, eller museet for dan sags skyld (men det siger sig selv!)

Læs her, hvis du har abonnement, eller køb avisen!

Titian Upgrade at Apsley House


Over at Apollo Magazine‘s website I provide my assessment of a picture of Orpheus, which has recently been restored in the process plausibly been associated with Titian. Go, read.

Dominique Goblet at The Comics Journal


My latest column at The Comics Journal is an extensive examination of Belgian artist and comics maker Dominique Goblet’s work over the last ten years and how she has made collaboration an essential part of her practice. Here’s an excerpt from the lead-in:

…Dominique Goblet is intensely concerned with life as lived by others, and life as a communal experience. She is among the most empathetic of artists working in the comics form, with each project pushing further the boundaries of interpersonal hermeneutics. Goblet is of the generation that emerged in the ’90s and helped consolidate ‘the graphic novel’ and ‘art comics’ in broader cultural terms—the first, arguably, to unabashedly self-identify as artists.

It is probably unsurprising, therefore, that she made autobiography—the genre that centered that movement—her proving ground. But she differs from most of her peers in that she has consistently looked beyond herself, in the process redefining for reality-based comics the way of working that has determined so much of the historical evolution of comics: collaboration.

Verrocchio (og Leonardo) i Weekendavisen

Andrea del Verrocchio, Bevinget dreng med delfin, ca. 1470–5, Firenze, Museo di Palazzo Vecchio


I dagens udgave af Weekendavisen kan man læse min anmeldelse af den fantastiske udstilling om Andrea del Verrocchio (ca. 1435–1488) som kunstner, værkstedsbestyrer og læremester for Leonardo i Palazzo Strozzi i Firenze. Udstillingen giver et fornemt indblik i det summende kreative florentiske kunstnermiljø i anden halvdel af fjortehundredetallet. Se udstillingen, hvis du kan, og læs anmeldelsen i avisen, eller her hvis du har abo.

Titian’s shitting dog


That got your attention, I hope? Yes, Titian drew a shitting dog, which he inserted into one of the most monumental compositions of his early years, the twelve-block woodcut of the Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea (c. 1517), right next to the figure of Moses! (detail above) In the latest issue of Art in Print, I examine the meaning and sources of this coarse insertion into what on first sight seems a grad and heroic composition, but — while it is certainly that — upon further inspection is inflected with a realism that is almost unprecedented in Venetian Renaissance art, informed as it must be by Titian’s possibly traumatic experiences of war during the struggle of Venice against the powerful League of Cambrai. Read more at your local art library or, if you’re a subscriber or would like to become one, online right here.

Miniaturemaleri i Weekendavisen

Nicholas Hilliard, selvportræt, 1577, Victoria and Albert Museum


I dagens Weekendavis kan man læse min anmeldelse af den fornemme udstilling the National Portrait Gallery de seneste måneder har vist af miniatureportrætter af genrens to store britiske mestre Nicholas Hilliard og Isaac Oliver. En art kollektiv portræt af den britiske elite under Elizabeth I og Jakob I via udsøgte kunstværker. Den bedste udstilling i London lige nu, men desværre ikke ret meget længere. Se den hvis du er i byen før 19 maj og læs kataloget.

Lorenzo Lotto: Last Days


The Lorenzo Lotto Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery, which I co-organised with Miguel Falomir and Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo, is now in the last days of its run. It’s been a great season for Lotto, what with us putting Lotto on at two of the major art museums of the world, the Museo del Prado in Madrid and The National Gallery, and with the concurrent Lotto initiative, inspired in part by our exhibition, in the region of the Marche, which has included an additional, more specialist-oriented exhibition in Macerata as well as the introduction of a joint ticket for visitors wanting to go on the Lotto trail through the region. Something which I’ve done and highly recommend — not only does it feature some of the artist’s greatest altarpieces and other paintings, the Marche is also a beautiful part of the world, mercifully free of tourists. Now, with tours, academic conferences, study days and other activities behind me, I can only say that I’ve become even more devoted learning about to this astonishing artist. I hope you have too.

Encouragingly in that regard, the London iteration of the exhibition, smaller but arguably more focused than the magnificent Madrid one, has a success. It is heartening to see so many people show an interest in a great artist who is virtually unknown outside Italy. I attribute it to Lotto’s very direct, intimate and relatable approach to his subject matter — he is an artist of great empathy who cannot but invest a lot of himself in his work, and it shows. If you haven’t seen the show yet and are in London, I hope you might be able to find the time. It’s open till Sunday. Check my introduction to the show above.

Flashback: In Conversation about Sebastiano & Michelangelo

Michelangelo & Sebastiano, with Dr Matthias Wivel and Dr Piers Baker-Bates from Colnaghi Foundation on Vimeo.

It’s Christmas time, so here’s a treat for the two and half people who might care. I was searching for something else and happened upon this video through the Colnaghi Foundation website. It records a conversation I had at their premises in London in the spring of 2017 with my colleague Piers Baker-Bates on Sebastiano del Piombo, his relationship to Michelangelo and his fortuna critica in Spain (a particular specialty of Piers’). Of course the impetus was the exhibition I had organised at the National Gallery, to which Piers had provided invaluable assistance.

I was aware at the time that it was being filmed but forgot all about it, so it’s nice to see it’s been online for a while. It’s very nerdy, but that was also kind of the brief, and frankly a relief at a time when I was doing many more general — and also enjoyable! — introductions to the subject. Plus, it’s always nice to chat with Piers. Enjoy!

Walther Isaacsons Leonardo


I dagens bogtillæg til Information anmelder jeg den danske udgave af Walther Isaacsons glimrende populærbiografi over Leonardo da Vinci. Hvorfor er himlen blå? Læs her (men gryn).

Venetian Drawings in Copenhagen


Years in the making, Chris Fischer’s latest catalogue of the collection of old master drawings at SMK, formerly in the Royal Print Collection, in Copenhagen, is now available. It covers the Venetian drawings, which is one of the collection’s strengths, even if it only contains a handful of real masterpieces.

I had the fortune of collaborating with Chris on this catalogue during my short stint as a research fellow at SMK, 2012-14. My contributions were minimal, but I am still proud to see my entries on Domenico Campagnola and his Paduan colleague Stefano dall’Arzere in there along with Chris’ exemplary entries on everything from Carpaccio and Veronese to Aliense and the Tiepolos. Also, Chris’ general introduction to the Venetian school of drawing is as good a short primer on this complex and still somewhat neglected field as you will find anywhere.

Bizarrely, the museum does not seem to sell this new publication, nor the former entries in what is a gold standard series for the cataloguing of drawings, anywhere online. I’m sure the catalogue will soon be available through international booksellers, but so far the only place I’ve found it is the Danish store Saxo.com.

Chris Fisher, with contributions by Matthias Wivel, Venetian Drawings (Italian Drawings in the Royal Collection of Graphic Art), Copenhagen: Statens Museum for Kunst, 2018