Monday, December 8, 2014

The United States Dazzles Venice with the POETRY OF LIGHT

The Palace; white and pink (1879/80) by James McNeil Whistler
(Venice, Italy) Andrew Robison, the effervescent curator of The Poetry of Light from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has finally achieved his dream of the past two decades: to present a great exhibition of Venetian drawings in Venice. The finest Venetian drawings that the National Gallery possesses are now on show at the Museo Correr until the Ides of March, 2015. More than 130 works are hung in elaborate frames chosen especially for each drawing in La Poesia della Luce: Disegni veneziani dalla National Gallery of Art di Washington.

Punchinello released from prison (1798-1802) by Giandomenico Tiepolo
Robison said most exhibitions about Venetian art stop around the year 1800 with Giandomenico Tiepolo, the last great artist from Venice before the collapse of the Republic after the Napoleonic invasion. However, Venice still continues today; the culture continues, and artists continue to be inspired by Venice. When Venice transformed from a state to a myth, it drew artists from all over the world who added another element to her image.

Venice has always been an international city, so included in the exhibition are not only Venetian artists, but artists from abroad who traveled to Venice and were touched by the light -- which means artists such as the German Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and Americans James Whistler (1834-1903) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) are represented. In addition, the Gallery considers all unprinted works of art on paper to be drawings, including watercolors and pastels, and considers not only the city of Venice in the term "Venetian," but all drawings made in the Veneto, not only by Venetians, but also by artists born and trained elsewhere. (I agree with that broad definition. It feels right.)

An Oriental Ruler Seated on His Throne (1495) by Albrecht Dürer
In 1937, Andrew Mellon donated his private art collection plus $10 million for construction to create the National Gallery of Art, which is free of charge, for the people of the United States. He believed that the United States should have a national art gallery equal to those of other great nations. Mellon insisted that the museum not bear his name to encourage other collectors to donate their treasures. His foresight worked. Before the Gallery opened, other major donors were already giving their collections. To read more about the National Gallery of Art, click HERE

If I tallied correctly, there are works by 74 artists on show: Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio are there. Lorenzo Lotto and Titian. Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. No less than twelve works by Giambattista Tiepolo. The number and quality of artists inspired by Venice is astonishing. The National Gallery has been building its collection of Venetian drawings since before it opened its doors to the public on March 17, 1941, starting with the "ravishing" Rosalba Carriera pastel given by Samuel H. Kress in 1939.

Giovedi Grasso Festival Before the Ducal Palace (1765/77) by Canaletto
"…the striking effects of light in Venice, the absence of any total darkness, soft light diffused by humidity in the atmosphere, brilliant light from penetrating sunshine, dancing light and shadow reflected from constantly moving waterways, and scintillating light shimmering off the water make the varieties and movement of light a special feature of the city, which deeply affected her artists and let to their feeling for the poetry of light."
---Andrew Robison
Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings,
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s by Giovanni Badile
The Poetry of Light is in chronological order beginning with Giovanni Badile's Portrait of a boy in profile, 1440s, one of the earliest examples of an actual portrait of a specific individual -- not a ruler -- and ending with three of John Singer Sargent's brilliant watercolors from the early 1900s. Perhaps the most fascinating room is dedicated to the wild imagination of Giambattista Piranesi, who is represented by ten pieces of work. Piranesi said, "I need great ideas and I think that if someone were to commission me with the project for a new universe, I'd be mad enough to accept."

A Magnificent Palatial Interior (1748/52) by Giambattista Piranesi
Robison praised Gabriella Belli, the Director of Venice's Civic Museums for a "magnificent collaboration," and said that her energy and enthusiasm allowed the exhibition to become reality. During the viewing, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabriella Belli, and told her what a great difference there was in the Musei Civici under her leadership. Venice is collaborating with some of the most prestigious museums in the world. Nations that are at odds politically are still able to communicate through culture. Belli said that she "believes in culture, and the effect it has on humanity," and that she wanted to do something "for the people."

I also spoke with Andrew Robison, whose passion for culture is contagious. I told him how thrilled I was that the United States had brought such an exhibition to Venice, and what a pleasure it was to meet like-minded Americans. Robison said that it was important to show that the US does not only lead when it comes to the military, but that we can also be leaders in culture.

Gondola Moorings on the Grand Canal (1904s/1907s) by John Singer Sargent
To make the exhibition the finest it could possibly be, Robison said that the Gallery gave everything; they didn't hold back anything. "It's not everything we own, but it is the best. We have given the best, our all." He said that after the show was over in March, it wasn't going to Paris, Berlin or London, the works were going back to the States. "Not for Paris, Berlin or London would we do this, but for Venice, yes."

THE POETRY OF LIGHT
Venetian drawings from the National Gallery of Art, Washington
December 6, 2014 to March 15, 2015
Organized by The National Gallery of Art, Washington
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Robison, the effervescent curator of The Poetry of Light from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has finally achieved his dream of the past two decades: to present a great exhibition of Venetian drawings in Venice. The finest Venetian drawings that the National Gallery possesses are now on show at the Museo Correr until the Ides of March, 2015.

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