Archive for the 'journal' Category

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.

Happy New Year!


Better late than never?

Merry Christmas

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Adoration of the Kings, 1564, London, The National Gallery

Fantask no more?


Meget tyder på at Fantask er slut. I fredag i sidste uge sendte Butikkens ejer Marit Nim en besked ud til Butikkens abonnenter om, at de lukker til sommer. Det satte i den grad fællesskabet i affekt — Benjamin Herbst fra Superhelten.dk igangsatte en GoFundMe for at støtte Butikken, i håbet om at det kunne forhindre en lukning. På under 24 timer var indsamlingen oppe på en kvart million, på mindre end en uge nåede vi en halv. Marit annoncerede som reaktion, at Fantask ikke lukker, men nok stadig må flytte fra adressen Skt Pedersstræde 18, hvor Butikken har ligget siden 1971.

Det virker helt sikkert. Fantasks stiftere Rolf Bülow og Søren Pedersen ejer lokalerne, som samtidig udgør deres pension. De har siden de afhændede butikken til Marit sikret, at hun kunne køre den på gode vilkår. At Marit så i sidste uge annoncerer at hun bliver nødt til at lukke, viser tydeligt at det ikke længere kan lade sig gøre uden større forandringer. Vi håber alle på det bedste, da Fantask jo i den grad må karakteriseres som en kulturbærende institution i Danmark — og en der har betydet enormt meget for enormt mange, herunder undertegnede, som endda en overgang arbejdede der.

Selvom det ikke er overraskende, gør det ondt at se Butikken kæntre her i den digitale tidsalder, hvor det i stigende grad er blevet vanskeligt at drive fysisk boghandel. Og det bringer alle minderne frem, i hvert fald hos undertegnede, men tydeligvis også for de tusindvis andre, der har lagt deres hårdt indtjente i hvad der nok snarere er en kærlighedserklæring til Fantask og et rygstød til holdet bag, end det er en realistisk redning. Lad os se, og Godspeed til alle de involverede, før og nu. Continue reading ‘Fantask no more?’

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.

Happy New Year!


Have a better one.

Merry Christmas!

Bramantino, The Adoration of the Kings, about 1500, London, The National Gallery

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

CAV

Fra Cavs bidrag til antologien BLÆK som undertegnede redigerede med Thomas Thohauge og Frederik Storm i 2006.


Cav er død. Det er så uendeligt trist. Jeg tror jeg kan sige, at vi var venner, selvom vi ikke sås tit. Vi var i hvert fald gode kolleger en årrække, hvor dansk tegneseriekultur rykkede sig meget. Eller lad mig sige det på denne måde: da jeg for nogle år siden — fordi jeg endnu engang stod foran en flytning til udlandet — på smertelig vis skulle skille mig af med en tredjedel af mine fra barndommen elskede amerikanske tegneserieblade, var der ingen tvivl om hvem der skulle have dem.

Jeg holdt meget af ham, som kollega og menneske. Det var altid en fornøjelse at være sammen med Cav. Han lyste op og gjorde glad, hvor end han gik, men det tyder på at det ikke altid gik den anden vej. Han var tydeligvis også dybt plaget i perioder. Thomas Thorhauge har skrevet en oplysende og gribende nekrolog og jeg har ikke meget konkret at tilføje, men synes alligevel jeg ville dele nogle anekdotiske minder. Continue reading ‘CAV’

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

Filippino Lippi, The Adoration of the Kings, about 1480, The National Gallery

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!

Kirby at 100


Today, Jack Kirby, one of the great artists of the twentieth century and a visionary of the comics form, would have turned 100. For those unfamiliar with this extraordinary person and artist, or merely wanting to brush up, here’s a good primer and here is the touching and informative reminiscence by Kirby’s friend and erstwhile employee Mark Evanier, and here are a couple of really good pieces on his work reposted today by two great comics critics, Ken Parille and Andrei Molotiu.

I myself will be contributing a piece to the rolling celebration taking place all week at Danish comics site Nummer9, masterminded by my friend and occasional collaborator Henry Sørensen, whose feature-length 2009 essay on Kirby leads a variety of homages and critical takes. He posted the first part of it today, soon to be followed by the second, as well as the first of a series of tributes by Danish cartoonists. Meanwhile, Danish afficionados Morten Søndergård and Kim Schou have posted a two-hour podcast on Kirby. All of this, regrettably is only available in Danish, but if you do read the language stay tuned for more, including an article by yours truly which will feature the image above (from New Gods #5, 1971) and will subsequently be posted somewhere (probably here) in English, I hope.

Oh, there have of course also been a few posts on Kirby on this site. Among them are my thoughts on Kirby’s extraordinary transitional work on the Challengers of the Unknown in the late 1950s, my take on his last Fantastic Four story with Stan Lee, and my review of Evanier’s 2008 monograph, which has just been re-released to mark the centenary. Also, there is the provocative 2007 article by aforementioned Søndergård on his possible involvement not just in the creation of Spider-Man, but the execution of some of the first comics pages featuring the character. I don’t really believe it, but it is worth your attention, as is the debate it sparked, which features Evanier (again!) as well as Blake Bell, expert Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and others.

UPDATE: here’s my essay in Danish at Nummer9 and in English at The Comics Journal.

PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING

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.

Happy New Year


A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall.

1 Love.