Thursday, October 11, 2012

Art around 1400 - Current exhibitions

In 2012, a number of exhibitions were dedicated to the period around 1400, the period of the International Gothic. Some of these are still open - in fact, one is about to open this week. These exhibitions each focus on one geographical area - but together they demonstrate the richness and variety of this extremely creative period of European art history. When we were preparing the Sigismundus-exhibition of 2006, originally we planned to show some true European highlights of this period - the period when Pisanello, Ghiberti, the young Donatello, Masolino and Massaccio, Claus Sluter, the Limbourg brothers or Robert Campin were all active - but works from this period are simply too fragile and precious to gather in one exhibition. However, if someone gets a chance to visit all the exhibitions listed below, he or she could get a very good impression of the main trends of the period.

Gentile da Fabriano: Adoration of the Magi, 1423 
Let us start with the exhibition still on view for a few weeks at The Uffizi in Florence (until November 4). The exhibition titled The Gleam of Gold - The International Gothic Style in Florence, 1375-1440, intends to reconstruct the panorama of Florentine art in the wonderful and crucial period that extended roughly from 1375 to 1440. The exhibition, set out in chronological order, starts with the work of the greatest artists working in the tradition of the late 14th century. Another section focuses on the achievements of Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the leading players on the Late Gothic scene in Florence who, in the early part of his career, trained virtually all of the city's most important artists in his workshop for the first Baptistry door. The exhibition ends with Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano, on display for the first time since its recent restoration. The exhibition is part of the 'Un anno ad arte' series, which has a separate website, with photos of key works on view. You can also read an overview of the exhibition here and in the New York Times.

Bernard Martorell: Trial of St, George,

Earlier this year (from 29 March to 15 July 2012), the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona held the exhibition Catalunya 1400 - The International Gothic Style. This was the first major exhibition on one of the most creative cycles in the history of Catalan art, around the turn of the 15th century. Beside great masterpieces by the most important Catalan artists of all time, the exhibition, showed the renewal of the miniature; presented the retable as the distinctive expression of Catalan painting; and it highlighted the importance of the arrival of European artists in Catalonia with the resulting French influence on Catalan culture. One of the stars of the exhibition were undoubtedly the the four panels with narrative scenes from the Retable of Saint George by Bernat Martorell, now in the Louvre. The exhibition includes at the same time a carefully chosen display of sculptures, items of precious metalwork and liturgical textiles.

You can get a PDF-format press overview of the exhibition here. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.

Moving to Northern Europe, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam is about to open the exhibition The Road to Van Eyck (October 13, 2012 - February 10, 2013), which focuses on early Netherlandish painting in the first decades of thre 15th century. "The exhibition is an art-historical voyage of discovery and will present ... practically all the paintings that still exist from this period. This is the first time that all these paintings have been brought together. And because of their fragile condition, it will also be most likely the last time. The core of the exhibition will comprise panel paintings, complemented by a small by high-quality selection of sculptures, metalwork, illuminated manuscripts and drawings. The highlight of the exhibition will be a small group of paintings by Van Eyck and artists from his circle, including the restored ‘The Three Marys at the Tomb’." 

Bruges (?), Triptych with the Embalming of the Body of Christ, c. 1410-1420
The exhibition includes a number of surprises, such as a previously unknown pre-Eyckian tryptich from a private collection or an unknown drawing from the studio of Jan van Eyck. More information is available on the website of the museum, and you can also have a look at the full list of works on display.

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