Lesser-known German impressionists

The idea for this blog post started with a postcard which I recently rediscovered among letters sent home from my year abroad in the 1980s, bought on a visit to the Kunsthalle in Mannheim. The postcard is a reproduction of a painting by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), one of a number that he did of his three daughters and the family dog in the garden of his country house near Munich. It was the impressionistic treatment of the sunlight which drew me to it and which reminded me of more familiar works by French impressionist painters.

Die Töchter im Garten, 1906, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Celebrating Albrecht Dürer’s travels

Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist is a new exhibition at the National Gallery which opened last month and runs until the end of February. It allows us to gain an insight into the artist’s travels across Europe and his encounters with other artists and patrons. On show are paintings, drawings and prints as well as written documents, many of them on loan from museums and private collections around the world.

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen which hosted a different version of the exhibition earlier this year, concentrating on just one year-long trip around the Low Countries. The Aachen exhibition was originally intended to open in autumn 2020, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of Dürer visiting Aachen for the coronation of Charles V. We know so much about Dürer’s time in the Low Countries because he kept a detailed journal, and while only page fragments remain of the original journal (loaned to the exhibition by the British Library), two transcriptions survive. Continue reading

The Prado Museum, a 200-year story

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General view of the Museo del Prado, by Outisnn (via Wikipedia)

Last November 19, the museum celebrated the 200 year anniversary of its opening. The University Library regularly receives Spanish art catalogues – including the ones issued by the Prado – but this time we have also acquired a selection of recent books (listed below) commemorating this occasion. Among them we can highlight Museo del Prado, 1819-2019: un lugar de memoria (C202.b.3782), catalogue of an exhibition focused on the museum’s history, organised by the institution. Continue reading

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 (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

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