Friday, October 21, 2016

At Home in Holland. Vermeer and his Contemporaries from the British Royal Collection

"The Music Lesson" by Johannes Vermeer returns to the Netherlands this autumn for the first time in twenty years. This masterpiece, part of the British Royal Collection, was last on display in the Mauritshuis in 1996, as part of the major Johannes Vermeer exhibition. The painting will be the highlight of this autumn’s exhibition At Home in Holland: Vermeer and his contemporaries from the British Royal Collection. The exhibition opened to the public on the 29th of September. 

"The Music Lesson" by Johannes Vermeer is installed at the exhibition At Home in Holland. Vermeer and his Contemporaries from the British Royal Collection that will open to the public 29 September 2016, Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016. Photographer: Piet Jacobson

"The Music Lesson"


"The Music Lesson" by Johannes Vermeer, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016.

"The Music Lesson" is one of the rare 36 surviving works by Johannes Vermeer. This painting dates from 1660-1662, and shows a woman and a gentleman beside a virginal. Above the instrument hangs a mirror, which reflects the foot of Vermeer's easel. The The painting was acquired by King George III of England in 1762, when it was attributed to Frans van Mieris the Elder. Only later was it recognised as a masterpiece by Vermeer.

Mauritshuis itself has three works by Vermeer

Diana and her Nymphs,  

View of Delft

and Girl with a Pearl Earring,

 but its collection lacks a genre piece by the artist. That’s why the museum is delighted to have the opportunity of showing a fourth Vermeer for a time.

The exhibition at The Mauritshuis contains works by masters such as Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriël Metsu and Jan Steen, which are regarded as some of the most important Dutch genre paintings in the Royal Collection.

Produced during the Dutch ‘Golden Age’, when the Netherlands was at the forefront of commerce, science and art, these works represent a high point in ‘genre painting’ –  ordinary scenes of everyday life rendered in extraordinary detail.  Renowned for their exquisite depiction of space and light, Dutch artists of the period also included humorous or moralising messages in their work for the contemporary viewer to decode.

Johannes Vermeer is perhaps the most highly regarded genre painter of his generation, despite only 34 paintings being attributed to him today.

In Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, early 1600s, Vermeer uses the horizontal grid of the floor tiles to create the illusion of depth within the painting.  The viewer's eye is drawn into the room, where a woman stands with her back to the observer and a man at her side appears to sing.  Their relationship is ambiguous and has been the subject of much debate. However, clues such as the inscription on the lid of the virginal – music is a companion in pleasure, a remedy in sorrow – suggest that there might be a romantic association between the figures.

The shared pleasures of music and love underlie the subject-matter of

Gabriel Metsu’s The Cello Player, c.1658, in which a female figure is greeted adoringly by a pet dog, while her suitor tunes his cello.

The Neglected Lute, c.1708, by Willem van Mieris presents a similar theme, but this time in the form of a seduction.  A woman in a sumptuously decorated room eats oysters and drinks from a delicate glass, while a lute, an erotic symbol to a contemporary audience, rests on the floor at her side.

Jan Steen, A Woman at her Toilet, 1663, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
By contrast, Jan Steen's A Woman at her Toilet, 1663, contains a moralising message.  The viewer takes on the role of voyeur, observing through an archway a young woman on an unmade bed in a state of undress.  A lute with a broken string, a skull, and a candle with its flame extinguished carry the warning that yielding to sensuality could lead to ruin.

Scenes of provincial Dutch life, in taverns and cottages and at village fetes, were popular subject-matter for artists.

Adriaen van Ostade's The Interior of a Peasant's Cottage, 1668, is a sympathetic image of peasant family life, with a mother cradling her baby and an older child eating obediently at a table, while their doting father looks on.  The perspective of the composition leads the viewer's eye into the depths of the room, where other figures appear from the shadows.

A Girl Selling Grapes to an Old Woman, c.1658, by Frans van Mieris the Elder, shows a young girl selling produce door to door from a wheelbarrow.  The rich variety of fruit and vegetables on offer advertises the fertility of the Dutch soil and reflects the development of horticulture during the Golden Age.

In one of Pieter de Hooch’s early works, A Courtyard in Delft, c.1657, a woman sits spinning in shadow while another crosses from sunlight into the shade carrying a jug, a dramatic bright-blue sky overhead.  The artist skilfully records all aspects of the scene, from the patchy whitewash on the brickwork to the two towers in the background. 

The quiet, contemplative character of De Hooch's composition contrasts with the strange artificiality of

Ludolf de Jongh's A Formal Garden: Three Ladies Surprised by a Gentleman, c.1676, in which the four foreground figures appear to be actors in a play.

The importance of trade in the Netherlands during the Golden Age is reflected in

Gerrit Dou's The Grocer's Shop: a Woman Selling Grapes, 1672.  Here two women busily weigh goods in a shop selling exotic imported items such as lemons and sponges.  As if caught in an unguarded moment, another in the background, holding a coffee pot, looks directly at the viewer.  In Willem van Mieris's An Old Man and a Girl at a Vegetable and Fish Stall, 1732, beneath the baskets of dried herrings, walnuts and gingerbreads, a rat nibbles an apple unnoticed by the figures in the shop, providing a humorous touch for the viewer.  

Gerard ter Borch (Zwolle 1617-Deventer 1681) A Gentleman pressing a Lady to drink  c.1658-9,, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, JC Orozco and vanguards

Musée National d’Art, INBA and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais.

05 October 2016 to 23 January 2017
Galeries nationales

Since its independence won from the Spanish monarchy in 1821, Mexico has never ceased to assert its willingness for change and its spirit of modernity.

Diego Rivera, Río Juchitán, 1953-1955 - Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA Asignación al Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes a través del Sistema de Administración y Enajenación de Bienes de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, 2015 ©Jorge Vertíz Gargoll

  José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Les Femmes des soldats 1926. Huile sur toile. México, INBA, Collection Museo de Arte Moderno. Photo © Francisco Kochen © Adagp, Paris 2016.

With painting, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, music, literature, film and the applied arts the country has forged its identity. The exhibition, which was desired by the highest French and Mexican authorities, is the largest event dedicated to Mexican art since 1953.

Offering a panorama of famous artists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo, the exhibition tour is a testament to the vibrant artistic creativity of the country throughout the twentieth century.

This exhibition is organised by the Musée National d’Art, INBA and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais.



Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth

Cincinnati Art Museum

October 15–January 8, 2017

Centered on Vincent van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures, the Cincinnati Art Museum’s new exhibition, Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth, will take visitors up close with celebrated woodland landscapes from October 15, 2016–January 8, 2017.

This exhibition—presented only at the Cincinnati Art Museum—brings an important group of artworks on loan from around the world together for the first time.

Exploring the works of the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries, the exhibition traces the evolution of the Dutch artist’s love of the natural world, powers of observation and mastery of detail through this special group of landscape paintings spanning his career.

This exhibition is the first to take a close look at Van Gogh’s poetic depictions of the forest floor, known as sous-bois, the French term for “undergrowth.” These odes to nature were a reaction to the increasing industrialization and urbanization of society.

The exhibition allows visitors to compare Van Gogh’s treatment of this theme with examples by those who influenced and inspired him, including Théodore Rousseau, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. Twenty artworks are borrowed from museum collections in Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Japan and more, and are joined by works from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s own important collection of French paintings and works on paper.

Since the Cincinnati Art Museum’s acquisition of 

Undergrowth with Two Figures in 1967, the museum has made this treasure available in major exhibitions around the world. It will travel to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2018.

In Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth, the painter is brought to life for visitors with his own words about the intimate relation between nature and art and the artists he admired, extensively quoted from his voluminous correspondence with his brother Theo. These letters serve as inspiration for the exhibition’s interactive activity, which involves a hands-on letter-writing experience. Another interactive will employ Google technology to allow visitors to explore Undergrowth with Two Figures on a touch screen, revealing the texture and brushstrokes of the painting in greatly enlarged detail.

With this exhibition, the Cincinnati Art Museum is leading the way with original scholarship in one of the few areas of Van Gogh study that remains to be explored.

The accompanying catalogue, also titled Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth, examines Van Gogh’s engagement with the sous-bois subject from various perspectives. Co-published by D Giles Limited, it will be available for sale at the Cincinnati Art Museum and online this fall. Cornelia Homburg, art historian and one of the world’s foremost Van Gogh experts, is among the authors.

To shed further light on Van Gogh’s artistic milieu, the exhibition will also include Unlocking Van Gogh’s World, a rich display of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist prints from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection.

In addition to Van Gogh, Artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Camille Pissarro, James McNeill Whistler and others will be included in this supporting exhibition.

Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York November 16: Claude Monet’s Meule (Grainstack)

On November 16, Claude Monet’s Meule (Grainstack) will be among the highlights of Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York. This important painting is recognized as one of the culminating and finest examples of Monet’s Grainstack series. Meule will be on display to the public at Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries beginning November 5. In advance of the November 16 sale, Christie’s will exhibit this painting for the first time in Asia at Christie’s Hong Kong October 17-19 and then at Christie’s London October 24-25.

Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President, remarked: “In recent years we have been extremely aware of the growing passion for classic Impressionist paintings amongst our leading Asian Collectors. This work is simply a masterpiece by Monet the genius of plein air painting, and we unveil it in Asia for the very first time. It is an honour to bring this great Monet to Hong Kong.”

The Grainstack series – some twenty-five canvases in all – was the most challenging and revolutionary endeavor that Monet, then fifty years old, had ever undertaken.  While he had experimented during the later 1880s with depicting a single landscape subject under different lighting and weather conditions, never before had he conceived of painting so many pictures that were differentiated almost entirely through color, touch, and atmospheric effect. The present painting is among the most formally adventurous of all the Grainstacks – part of a trio of canvases in which a single conical meule is seen close up and cropped by the painting’s edge, transcending naturalism in form and color alike.

Conor Jordan, Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art, comments: “Claude Monet’s Meule, a work of shimmering beauty, is one of the last remaining examples in private hands of the artist’s momentous series of Grainstack paintings executed over the winter of 1890-1891. A rhapsody of twilight atmosphere, Meule is rendered with a weft of jewel-like color that evokes both radiant glory of a moment and the universal qualities of the passage of time in nature.”

Monet needed only to walk out his door at Giverny, to a field known as the Clos Morin that lay just west of his home, to find his motif. He set up his easel near the boundary wall of his garden, looking west across the field toward the hills on the far bank of the Seine. There, following the harvest, local farmers piled hundreds of sheaves of bound grain stalks into tightly packed stacks, rising from fifteen to twenty feet in height and capped with thatched conical roofs. These served as storage facilities, protecting the crop from moisture and rodents until spring, when the grain could be more easily separated from the chaff. The grainstacks represented the local farmers’ livelihood – the fruits of their labors and their hopes for the future.

Monet and his art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited fifteen Meules in May 1891 to great acclaim and by the close of 1891, all but two of the Grainstacks had left the artist’s studio. The present painting is one of five from the series that the American-based dealer Knoedler selected from the artist in September 1891, and the only one from that group to remain today in private hands.

A majority of the Grainstacks series are housed in major art museums around the world, including the Musée d'Orsay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Scotland, while few are held in private collections. In recent years, prices for exceptional examples of Monet’s work have soared, driven by demand from collectors worldwide for masterpiece quality works by the greatest master of the Impressionist period.

The top price at auction for any Monet painting is $80.4 million for Le Bassin aux nympheas from 1919, sold at Christie’s London in June 2008 against an estimate of $35-47 million.

Watteau. The Draughtsman

Städel Museum
19 OCTOBER 2016 TO 15 JANUARY 2017

Teylers Museum in Haarlem 
2 February to 14 May 201

FROM 19 OCTOBER 2016 TO 15 JANUARY 2017, the Städel Museum will present a comprehensive exhibition on one of the most outstanding draughtsmen in the history of French art – Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). The show in the Exhibition Gallery of the Department of Prints and Drawings will bring together fifty drawings by Watteau, enhanced by six of his paintings and a small selection of drawings by contemporaries and successors. Organized in cooperation with Teylers Museum in Haarlem, Holland, the exhibition “Watteau. The Draughtsman” will be the first monographic presentation of the artist’s work in Germany for more than thirty years. It will moreover be the first in this country devoted specifically to the phenomenon of Watteau in all his many facets as a draughtsman. Drawings served him as a basis for his painterly work. He drew continually and habitually, and in the most varied situations. The Städel has in its holdings altogether seven works from different phases of his career – and thus one of the most prominent Watteau collections in Germany. The precious sheets from the two institutions will form the exhibition’s core, and be supplemented by loans of high quality from collections in Germany, Holland, France and other European countries. Following its presentation at the Städel, the exhibition will be on view at Teylers Museum in Haarlem from 2 February to 14 May 2017.

“Already the spectacular purchase of the painting The Embarkation for Cythera (ca. 1709–1712) in 1982 prepared the ground for the scholarly investigation of the works of Antoine Watteau at the Städel Museum. Our present comprehensive special exhibition on Watteau as an eminent draughtsman provides us with an opportunity to address ourselves to a further central aspect of his œuvre”, comments Dr Martin Sonnabend, curator of the exhibition and head of the Städel’s department of prints and drawings to 1750.

The French artist Antoine Watteau is one of the great masters of draughtsmanship. He was born in 1684 in the Flemish city of Valenciennes, which had been conquered by the troops of Louis XIV only shortly beforehand. Nothing is known about his early artistic training. In about 1702 he went to Paris, where he eked out a living for several years as an assistant to various artists, interior decorators and art dealers. It was around 1709 that he began to call attention to himself as a painter of works of his own. In 1712 the Paris academy admitted him to its ranks. From that time onward, he was highly successful above all with bourgeois connoisseurs and collectors, for whom he carried out paintings – for the most part small in format – of a novel subject, the fête galante (courtship party). The compositions show gatherings of young, elegantly dressed women and men in park-like landscapes, conversing, making music or contemplating nature. With their mix of reality and ideality, they catered to the taste of a generation that no longer found artistic appeal in the ponderous history paintings of the age of Louis XIV, works designed to represent the interests of the state. In Watteau’s courtship scenes, arcadian themes and traditions of Dutch genre painting join with motifs taken from the theatre of the artist’s time to create a reality considered free, indebted to sensory perception, and as immediately real as it was permeated with artistry. It took the generation following Watteau – who died of tuberculosis at the young age of thirty-six – to develop his approach further into the art that later came to be called “Rococo”.

Drawings were the prerequisite for Watteau’s artistic production. His ability to capture his observations rapidly and confidently in red chalk enabled him to amass an extensive repertoire of motifs – primarily figural studies, but also landscape drawings and copies of works by other artists –; he then drew from this rich stock to devise the compositions of his paintings. Over time, by employing white and black chalk in addition to the red, he developed a virtuoso technique of stunning painterly effect. The immediacy of drawing provided him with an essential means of recording the fine nuances of reality that found their way into his scenes of courtship gatherings. Already his contemporaries recognized this special quality and collected Watteau’s drawings. His innovative style, characterized by a combination of precise observation, spontaneity, facility and intimacy, contrasts distinctly with the rigorous tradition to which the academically oriented artists of his time adhered. With its psychological sensitivity, the new, virtuoso art reflected the spirit of the incipient Enlightenment. The French Romanticists and the Impressionists considered Antoine Watteau one of their forerunners, and to this day we are amazed by the modernity of his works – especially his drawings.

The Städel Museum has in its painting collection the earliest version of the famous The Embarkation for Cythera (ca. 1709–1712) which – also thanks to the other two versions in the Louvre and Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin – is presumably the artist’s single most famous composition.

“Watteau. The Draughtsman” will enhance this work with five further paintings and fifty selected drawings. The presentation will begin with early drawings by Watteau showing figures from the realm of theatre as well as fairs and folk festivals. His early theatre studies of ca. 1709 to 1712 bear a direct thematic connection to the The Embarkation for (or Pilgrimage to) Cythera.

In addition to the Städel Museum painting, this section will also feature preliminary studies of male and female models in pilgrims’ costumes. Watteau also devoted himself to other popular themes of his time, as seen in his soldier and hunting scenes. His drawings of members of a Persian delegation that visited Paris in 1715 testify to the draughtsman Watteau’s sublime mastery of the “three-chalk” technique. It was also around this time that he made his studies of the “Savoyards”, destitute street performers and merchants of the French capital.

Following a section presenting Watteau’s drawings after works by other artists, the show will return to the most important theme in his œuvre. After first appearing in the The Embarkation for Cythera, the subject of the fête galante continued to play a decisive role, characterizing Watteau’s work to such an extent that it came to be closely associated with his name. In his paintings he also turned his attention again and again to theatre as a medium that can present the world of feelings without the constraints imposed by societal or natural reality, and as an element combining the artificial and the real. The reflection on emotional events that already played a role in the artist’s investigation of theatre is also the theme of a further section of the exhibition. Here the focus is on drawings in which Watteau captured the gazes, thoughts and feelings of his models.

The show “Watteau. The Draughtsman” will conclude with thirteen drawings by successors to the artist – among them Antoine Coypel (1661–1722), Nicolas Lancret (1690–1743), François Boucher (1703–1770) and Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) – from the Städel Museum holdings. A publication of the years 1726–1728 containing 350 etchings after Watteau drawings (by, among others, François Boucher) will also be on display.

A catalogue accompanying the exhibition will be published by the Hirmer Verlag with a foreword by Philipp Demandt and Marjan Scharloo. The publication will offer an introduction to the art of Watteau by Martin Sonnabend. Michiel Plomp (Teylers Museum, Haarlem) will investigate the artist’s exploration of the works of those “Old Masters” he chose – in the context of the drawing medium – as examples to emulate, and the Watteau expert Christoph Martin Vogtherr (Wallace Collection, London and designated director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle) will analyse various aspects of the specific strategies Watteau pursued as a draughtsman, which differed distinctly from the practices otherwise common in his day.

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
The Embarkation for Cythera, ca 1709–1712
Oil on canvas, 44.3 x 54.4 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum - U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK
Joint Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
Sitting persian, 1715
Red and black chalk, 25.0 x 21.2 cm
Teylers Museum, Haarlem
Photo: Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
Standing girl with bare feet, lifting her skirt, ca 1715–1717
Red, black and white chalk on reddish beige paper, 26.2 x 14.0 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Foto: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
Sitting young child, ca 1715–1716 or ca 1720
Red, black and white chalk on beige paper, 17.7 x 12.2 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Photo: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
Hunting party, ca 1713
Red chalk, 40.3 x 54.1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Antoine Watteau, (1684-1721)
Woman with a veil, ca 1717
Red and black chalk, 15.4 x 13.2 cm
Amsterdam Museum, legaat C.J. Fodor

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Georg Baselitz The Heroes

FROM 30 June to 23 October 2016, the Städel Museum is presenting Georg Baselitz’s famous “Heroes” in a comprehensive monographic special exhibition fifty years after the paintings’ making. Georg Baselitz (b. 1938) definitely ranks among the most influential painters and sculptors of our time. His powerful workgroup of “Heroes” and “New Types” is regarded as a key achievement of 1960s German art all over the world. In the exhibition curated by Max Hollein, it is being shown on a large scale for the first time.

Some seventy paintings and works on paper are on view: their aggressively and defiantly painted monumental figures have lost nothing of their ambiguous, portentous and vulnerable quality to this day. Baselitz’s “Heroes” are raddled soldiers, resigned painters, marked by their latent failure as well as by their uncertain future. The fragility and contradictory nature of the “Heroes” in terms of contents find their formal equivalent. The consistently frontal depiction and central placement of the clearly outlined figures contrast with the wildness of the artist’s palette and the vehemence of his painting style.

Loans from important international museums and private collections offer the public a wide-ranging view of these icons of German postwar art conceived by the only twenty-seven-year old artist in a spurt of explosive productivity in 1965 and 1966. After its début at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the major exhibition will travel to the Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

“The ‘Heroes’ are both a landmark and a fervent pivot in Georg Baselitz’s oeuvre. They have sprung from a deep, inner necessity in a deliberate confrontation with pressing, charged subjects and unfold a timeless reflection on the artist’s existence as such. Giving expression to strikingly visualized and self-felt isolation, uprooting, and lack of orientation, the works render the artist’s precarious state of experience in a broken world, establishing a paradigmatic image of his condition”, says Max Hollein, curator of the show.

In 1965, Georg Baselitz found himself faced with an order destroyed in multiple ways: twenty years after the end of World War II, ideologies and political systems, as well as artistic styles, were up for discussion. This lack of systems of order was very much in keeping with the artist’s own nature: appropriation through artistic categorization is something that has remained foreign to him throughout his life.

Fundamentally skeptical, Baselitz emphasized the equivocal aspects of his time. Breathing failure and resignation, his monumental “Heroes” in their tattered battle dress evince an accordingly contradictory character. That the artist devoted himself to the subject of “Heroes” or “Types” at all at that time was a provocation in itself. (Male) heroism and its one-time exponents had been called into question by the war and the postwar period. Figures from a presumably buried past are brought back to life, picturing a reality which was anything but welcome in the German Federal Republic’s success story of the economic miracle – and this in the supposedly obsolete form of figurative painting.

Yet the artist was concerned with far more than general issues of society. In numerous role depictions – the spectrum includes the “New Type”, the rebel/partisan with historical/political connotations, the spiritual shepherd and the painter adopting a position – Baselitz visualized his individual stance and his personal path as a painter. In a staggering act of self-assertion and identity definition that ran contrary to the prevailing currents of the time, he reflected on his own position vis-à-vis the society in which he lived. “I’ve carried out a lot of experiments in fifty years. But I don’t think the ‘Heroes’ require any further coaching”, comments Georg Baselitz on the “Heroes” and “New Types” workgroup.

“The Städel’s exhibition is presenting Baselitz’s ‘Heroes’ across two floors of its Exhibition Building in an interplay of empty spaces and zones of concentration,” says Eva Mongi-Vollmer, co-curator of the exhibition. Special emphasis has been placed on the impact of the individual paintings and drawings. Thanks to the varied wall colors and the strongly rhythmical – and frequently surprising – presentation, a visit to the exhibition heightens the perception of the works and sensitizes the viewer.

Baselitz’s “Heroes” and “New Types” with their colossal bodies and extremely small heads are always positioned in the very center of the picture. They stagger or, sometimes clumsily, sometimes in complete control, stalk through the pictorial space. In accordance with their maltreated bodies, their bleak surroundings suggest devastation: houses on fire, trees stripped of their leaves, thrown-up mounds of earth. The vagrant “Heroes” are furnished with a repertoire of recurring objects they carry with them: field packs, palettes and brushes or instruments of torture. Despite the repetitive format of 162 × 130 centimeters, each of the works strikes us with an expression all of its own, which strongly depends on the chosen method of painting and the colors employed. The loose chronological sequence of works in the presentation testifies to Baselitz’s gradual breaking away from his motif. It is only a short way from there to his later inversion of the subject.

Baselitz began the “Heroes” and “New Types” workgroup during the period he spent at the Villa Romana in Florence on a grant. After returning to West Berlin, he continued developing the theme. The much-discussed history of Baselitz scandals that had begun in 1963 with the show at the Galerie Werner & Katz was now drawing to a close. Within the œuvre of the artist’s early years, the “Hero” paintings represent a special turning point and can today be regarded as a historical document. These works did not fall into line with the artistic tendencies of their time – whether the ZERO group’s vision of the future, the French or American approaches to abstraction or the variations on German post-war Informel. Even twenty years after the end of the war, they did not content themselves with a superficial feeling of a new beginning. And even if the “Heroes” and “New Types” adhere to recurring elements in terms of motif, they are monstrous, damaged and forceful in their painterly formulation. They represent an important stance within post-1945 German art.

The exhibition is being accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue published by Hirmer, in which editor Max Hollein explores painting as a means of liberation in his introduction, while Alexander Kluge’s texts create an impressive, very special space of perception; Uwe Fleckner deals with the postheroic hero, the art historian Richard Shiff gives a lively impression of lost heroes, and Städel curator Eva Mongi-Vollmer focuses on the years Baselitz’s “Heroes” date from.

The audio guide to the exhibition (also available on the Städel app) is spoken by Georg Baselitz and Alexander Kluge. Starting on Wednesday, 15 June 2016, an elaborately designed “digitorial” – available at – will provide comprehensive insights into key premises and works of the exhibition.


Born in Deutschbaselitz in eastern Saxony on 23 January 1938, Georg Baselitz began his studies at the College of Fine Arts in Berlin-Weissensee (East). After he had been expelled from the school because of “sociopolitical immaturity” after two semesters, he continued his studies in Berlin-Charlottenburg (West) in 1957. First travels abroad led him to Amsterdam and Paris.

1961 saw the beginning of his exhibition activities together with Eugen Schönebeck in an unoccupied house, on the occasion of which the first “Pandemonium Manifesto,” as it came to be called, was published. The following gallery shows were controversially received. In 1966 Baselitz left Berlin for a town in Rhine-Hesse near Worms.

He painted his first picture showing its motif upside down in 1969 – a decision he remained true to throughout his further career. As he became more and more renowned, he increasingly presented his works in exhibitions abroad; in 1980 he and Anselm Kiefer were invited to represent the Federal Republic of Germany at the 39th Venice Biennale. Much-acclaimed exhibitions in various countries such as Great Britain and the United States followed. Baselitz continued his teaching activities, which he had begun in Karlsruhe in 1978, in Berlin from 1983 to 1988 and from 1992 on. Numerous retrospectives, honors, awards, and honorary professorships still pay tribute to the outstanding relevance of his work.


A catalogue accompanying the exhibition will be published by Hirmer. Edited by Max Hollein and Eva Mongi-Vollmer, it comprises a foreword by Max Hollein and contributions by Uwe Fleckner, Max Hollein, Alexander Kluge, Richard Shiff, and Eva Mongi-Vollmer. German and English edition, 172 pages..

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
A New Type, 1966
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Privately owned
Photo: Frank Oleski, Köln
© Georg Baselitz 2016

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The Tree, 1966
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Privately owned
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The Shepherd, 1965
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna, loan of the Österreichische Ludwig-Stiftung, since 1993
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Frank Oleski, Köln

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The Shepherd, 1966
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The Modern Painter, 1965
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Privately owned
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Frank Oleski, Köln

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The New Type, 1966
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, donation: Franz Dahlem
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Kim Hansen, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
The Great Friends, 1965
Oil on canvas, 250 x 300 cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Frank Oleski, Köln

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
A New Type, 1965
Gouache, ink wash and crayon on paper, 48,7 x 31,7 cm
Privately owned
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
With Red Flag, 1965
Oil on canvas, 163 x 131 cm
Private collection courtesy of Art Agency, Partners
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Frank Oleski, Köln

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
Rebel, 1965
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
Tate: purchased 1982, London
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Friedrich Rosenstiel, Köln

Georg Baselitz (*1938)
Blocked Painter, 1965
Oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm
MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg, Collection Ströher
© Georg Baselitz 2016
Photo: Archiv Sammlung Ströher

The Shimmer of Gold: Giovanni di Paolo in Renaissance Siena


 October 11, 2016 –January 8, 2017 



Branchini Madonna, 1427, Giovanni di Paolo, Italian, The Norton Simon Foundation, F.1978.01.P

Manuscript illuminator and panel painter Giovanni di Paolo (about 1399–1482) counts as one of the most distinctive and imaginative artists working in Renaissance Siena, Italy. The Shimmer of Gold: Giovanni di Paolo in Renaissance Siena, on view October 11, 2016 through January 8, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, brings together several examples of his brilliantly colored paintings on both panel and parchment, including the work that scholars consider to be the artist’s masterpiece.

The exhibition centers on Giovanni’s most important commission, the Branchini Altarpiece, a multi-panel polyptych completed in 1427 for the Branchini family chapel in the church of San Domenico in Siena. The exhibition reunites—for the first time since it was dispersed sometime after 1649—the glorious, large central panel, representing the Virgin and Child surrounded by seraphim and flowers, with the altarpiece’s four surviving predella panels, smaller narrative paintings that decorated the lower register of the altarpiece.

“This exhibition had its beginnings, like many others at the Getty, in the conservation studio when a small panel painting by Giovanni di Paolo came to the Museum in 2012 for treatment thanks to the generosity of our Paintings Council,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This opportunity gave our conservators and curators the chance to study the panel, compare it to other works by the same artist, and eventually develop an exhibition that presents Giovanni’s art in all its richness and complexity.”

The signed and dated central panel, the so-called “Branchini Madonna,” on loan from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, was the only portion identified as part of the altarpiece until 2009, when scholars in Europe connected it with other works. When asked about the exhibition, Norton Simon Museum President and CEO Walter Timoshuk said, “The Getty Museum has presented a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our ‘Branchini Madonna,’ a highlight from our early-Renaissance collection, and we are delighted to see it exhibited in this revelatory way.”

The team at the Getty recently had the opportunity to study the panel from the Norton Simon when it came to the Museum for conservation, along with a small predella panel representing the Adoration of the Magi, which had been loaned for study and treatment by the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. Technical analysis is still ongoing, but it seems to support what scholars had already suspected: that the Adoration of the Magi panel was indeed part of the Branchini Altarpiece, as were three other predella panels in the collection of the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena. All four surviving predella panels (there was a fifth panel, which is yet to be found) will be gathered together in the exhibition. “Other missing parts of the polyptych have not yet been found but technical analysis may help identify other works in the future,” says Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. Adds Yvonne Szafran, senior conservator of Paintings Conservation at the Getty Museum and co-curator of the exhibition: “Scientific analysis of art is becoming extremely sophisticated, and technological advances allow us to examine paintings more comprehensively than ever before. With the help of our colleagues at the Getty Conservation Institute, we can now discover material information about paintings that was previously hidden, in this case revealing links between panels that were separated long ago.”

The exhibition also brings into focus the highly decorative and richly colored painting technique, which included extensive use of gold leaf, that peaked in Italy in the early 15th century, and of which Giovanni di Paolo was a celebrated master. Over the course of his lengthy career, Giovanni received prestigious commissions from private individuals and families, patrons such as the Pope, guilds, and numerous religious orders, including the Dominicans and Augustinians. His brilliantly colorful paintings on both panel and parchment reveal him to be an artist whose style drew uniquely from Sienese and Florentine models.

Giovanni di Paolo: The Adoration of the Magi

The Coronation of the Virgin, about 1420, Gentile da Fabriano, tempera and gold
  In the 1420s, Giovanni di Paolo and fellow Sienese artists responded enthusiastically to the courtly splendor of the newly arrived painter Gentile da Fabriano, one of the most successful artists in Italy at the time, who traveled to Tuscany from northern Italy for numerous commissions, and who immediately worked with and sometimes under the supervision of Siena’s leading creative personalities.

Some scholars have suggested that the young Giovanni di Paolo may have worked on the Branchini Altarpiece with Gentile, who would have influenced Giovanni di Paolo’s technique, as many similarities in their painting methods are apparent. The sophisticated layering of paint and gold as well as the careful execution of elaborate and fine decorative details is evident in the work of both artists, and each were masters at depicting the luxury brocaded textiles and animal furs that were so valued during this period.

In the exhibition, leaves and cuttings from choir books illuminated by Sienese and Florentine artists underscore the shared working methods, itinerant travels, and – in particular – the prevalent use of gold in the religious imagery of the period; as well as explore Giovanni di Paolo’s influence on the painted arts in Renaissance Tuscany. “The illuminated choir book is one of the most significant art forms to demonstrate the combined efforts of multiple artists, a theme demonstrated through a grouping of miniatures lent by the Burke Family Collection and the Ferrell Collection,” says Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator in the department of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum, who also co-curated the exhibition.

The Shimmer of Gold: Giovanni di Paolo in Renaissance Siena will be on view October 11, 2016 – January 8, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is generously supported by the Museum’s Paintings Council who not only sponsored the conservation work on the predella panel from the Kröller-Müller Museum, but also provided funding for the exhibition.

Complementing the exhibition is a special show at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood. Unknown Monk – on view from October 7 through November 11, 2016 – features a series of small panels and a large oil painting on canvas which visually references the Giovanni di Paolo altarpiece by contemporary Italian artists Alex Folla and Elena Trailina.

Also on view at the Getty Center are The Art of Alchemy at the Getty Research Institute (October 11, 2016 –February 12, 2017) and Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 11, 2016 –January 8, 2017). Drawn primarily from the collections of the Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum The Art of Alchemy, portrays the critical impact of this arcane subject on artistic practice and expression from Greco-Egyptian antiquity to medieval Central Asia, and from the Islamic world to Europe during the Enlightenment and beyond. The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts examines the significance of color, which was understood in the Middle Ages in terms of its material, scientific and medicinal properties.
Image Caption(s) and Credit(s)

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, about 1403 - 1482)
The Presentation in the Temple, 1427
Tempera and gold on panel
Panel: 50 × 50.8 × 3.3 cm (19 11/16 × 20 × 1 5/16 in.)
Polo Museale Regionale della Toscana
Repro Credit:
Polo Museale della Toscana - Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena.

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, about 1403 - 1482)
Initial A: Christ Appearing to David, about 1440
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 20 × 18.6 cm (7 7/8 × 7 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 29, recto

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, about 1403 - 1482)
The Flight into Eygpt, 1427
Tempera and gold on panel
Panel: 50 × 50 × 1.6 cm (19 11/16 × 19 11/16 × 5/8 in.)
Object Credit:
Polo Museale Regionale della Toscana
Repro Credit:
Polo Museale della Toscana - Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena.

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, about 1403 - 1482)
The Crucifixion, 1427
Tempera and gold on panel
Panel: 49.5 × 52.2 × 1.6 cm (19 1/2 × 20 9/16 × 5/8 in.)
Polo Museale Regionale della Toscana
Repro Credit:
Polo Museale della Toscana - Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena