Sorolla, Spanish master of light

The exhibition Sorolla: Spanish master of light (S950.a.201.6770) that inspired this post is coming to an end at the National Gallery (London) on 7 July, but will open at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin between 10 August and 3 November.

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Self-portrait, 1904 (partial view. Via Wikimedia, click to see enlarged)

Although probably not known to the English-speaking educated public, Sorolla was the most internationally well-known Spanish artist of his time. A painter with a style close to impressionism, and without any doubt, a master at capturing light.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was born in Valencia, the son of a tradesman, but became an orphan at a young age. Joaquín and his sister were taken under the care of their aunt and uncle, who was a locksmith. Sorolla showed an early interest in painting. He started taking drawing classes in 1874, later followed by studies at the Fine arts school in Valencia. With the support of the photographer Antonio García Peris (see S950.c.201.1204), his future father-in-law, he was able to set up his first studio. Continue reading

The Bowlt-Misler Collection : Russian and Soviet art history

Professor Nicoletta Misler and Professor John Bowlt in the University Librarian’s offices.

Professor John Bowlt, a highly distinguished art historian of late Imperial and early Soviet visual culture, and the 2015-16 Cambridge Slade Professor of Fine Art, has announced that he will donate his library to the University Library as the Bowlt-Misler Collection.  This is an extremely exciting development.  Professor Bowlt has built his library into an astounding resource over the course of his career, and it now numbers many thousands of books, periodicals and catalogues.

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Mariano Fortuny y Marsal: a cosmopolitan 19th-century artist

Federico_de_Madrazo_Portrait_of_Fortuny_Wiki

Mariano Fortuny in 1867 by Federico de Madrazo (Wikipedia)

This year marks the 180th anniversary of the birth of Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny 1838-1874 (not to be confused with his son Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, the fashion designer). For the first time, Madrid’s Museo del Prado held a comprehensive exhibition devoted to Fortuny, showing 169 art pieces loaned by private collectors and major museums including the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya – MNAC (Barcelona) and Museo Fortuny (Venice).

Fortuny was internationally renowned and, after Francisco de Goya (see Glendinning’s donation post), considered one of the best Spanish painters and printmakers of the 19th century.  His take on genre painting was fashionable, and collecting his art was a sign of class for the bourgeoisie, as Carlos Reyero explains in his recent book (C205.d.4208).  Fortuny had great success painting genre scenes and Moresque-inspired paintings. But at the same time he was an innovator and enjoyed the rare privilege of creating the art he wished. He was very versatile artist; he mastered all the techniques he undertook: oil painting, with precise touch often compared with Ernest Meissonier’s, and especially watercolour and etching, advancing both techniques and achieving new results. He used watercolour in a more modern way, as an autonomous art technique, and not only for preparatory works. His etchings were influenced mainly by the work of Goya, Rembrandt and José de Ribera. As he was more skilful than his contemporaries, he aroused both their envy and admiration. Continue reading

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768)

Portrait of Winckelmann by Angelica Kauffmann via Wikimedia Commons

This December marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, one of the most important scholars of his age. He was the founder of modern art history and archaeology and a pioneer of German classicism.

Winckelmann, who was born into humble origins as the son of a shoemaker, spent the first three decades of his life in the German provinces before coming to Dresden. At the age of 38, he moved to Rome where he became one of the most sought-after city guides and associated with noblemen from all over Europe. He established a wide network of correspondents from Italy, France, England and other countries. It is unlikely that the international reception of Winckelmann’s work would have been so far-reaching without this European network. Winckelmann is unquestionably one of the most prominent, and perhaps even one of the first German-speaking, writers of the modern period, who was read and received with great attention throughout Europe. Continue reading