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

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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.  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

Penck: beautiful and poignant

The University Library has recently acquired the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition A.R. Penck, Rites de passage (S950.a.201.5701) which was held at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence near Nice from March 18 to June 18, 2017. Penck was one of the greatest German artists of the late 20th century along with Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Sigmar Polke and Jörg Immendorff. The focus of the exhibition was on the challenges of his painting and sculpture through different periods, each chosen to give a better understanding of the richness of his aesthetic, existential, philosophical and literary worlds. The exhibition presented around one hundred paintings, sculptures, large sets of drawings, prints and artists’ books. Continue reading

Jean Lurçat (1892-1966): a singular surrealist

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The exhibition catalogue stands at S950.a.201.4730

In 2016, I was lucky enough to visit an exhibition presenting some of the most striking works of art I had ever seen: monumental pieces, several square metres each, all bursting with incredibly vivid colours. What surprised me the most was that these masterpieces were by an artist I had only vaguely heard of before, his talent apparently eclipsed by that of his more famous contemporaries. Perhaps this was due to the nature of most of his works: they were not paintings, but tapestries.

Tapestry in France was at its highest point in the late medieval period, with famous examples such as La Dame à la licorne and the Tenture de l’Apocalypse but was more or less a forgotten art by the beginning of the 20th century. A great admirer of this medieval tradition, Jean Lurçat, the artist whose works I was admiring, sought to revive it by borrowing many of its themes for his tapestries. The “mille-fleurs” for example, a style that consists in weaving hundreds of flowers, all different, around the main subject of a work, features heavily in his art. Fantastic creatures were a recurring theme in medieval tapestry and Lurçat created an entire bestiary in his main works. But he also enriched this medieval tradition by the addition of a surrealist twist, many of his tapestries presenting a disconcerting, oneiric, highly symbolical landscape. Continue reading

Louis XIV: The king is dead… but not in our collections

le-roi-est-mort-catalogueJust in time for the final episodes of Versailles on the BBC, the University Library has received Le roi est mort : Louis XIV, 1715 (S950.a.201.4340). Including imagery from the funerals of French figures from Henri IV to Charles de Gaulle, this book (the catalogue of an exhibition held at the Châteaux de Versailles marking the 300th anniversary of his death) discusses both the ceremony and legal proceedings resulting from the death of the king.

Documents such as Louis XIV’s will (available in part online through the Archives nationales), the seating plan in St Denis for his funeral service, and orations from his funeral are reproduced along with essays on the death and funerals of kings of France, specific aspects of Louis XIV’s funeral, and analysis of the music and ceremony of royal funerals. Continue reading

The Serov exhibition catalogue : the January 2016 Slavonic item of the month

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Popular demand for the Valentin Serov exhibition at the State Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow saw its original closing date extended to 24 January.   When visitor numbers even in its re-scheduled final week were so high that 4-hour queues formed outside in sub-zero temperatures,  the gallery extended the opening again, to this Sunday, the 31st.

Visitor sentiment peaked on 22 January, when a door was broken in to gain entrance.  Runet (the unofficial name for the Russian-language internet) promptly filled up with related humour, with the contrast of such high demand at the close of the exhibition’s run with the low visitor numbers seen when it first opened in the autumn a particular target for humour.  A spin on one of Serov’s most famous portraits, ‘Girl with peaches’, for example, had the girl now lifting her hand to her head and wearily saying “that feeling when you’ve been sitting here with peaches since October, and they break the doors down in January” (here).

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