Sunday, 4 March 2012

...to the Renaissance...in Canberra

G'day all,
 Shane here again with tales from the Renaissance, a small part of which is in Canberra having come over from the Acadamia Carrara, Bergamo
That's me with me mate, Sandro...(Botticelli) he's got a couple of goodies in the show as you'd expect from someone of his talent. 
Ohh... by the way all the other pics on this page are courtesy of the National Gallery Canberra 

 http://nga.gov.au/Exhibition/RENAISSANCE


It's not a big show but it is a fascinating and absorbing precis and look at the C15th & C16th; of  the growing "humanism" that developed out from the Renaissance as the society of the Italian states became more secular..... but this little Andrea Mantegna (28cm x 19cm, 1450) of St Bernardino of Siena has it's roots firmly back in the religious gothic even though the austere realism and formidable sense of the ascetic's quiet have an almost Modernist / Minimilist manner to them.
This piece struck me from a distance and held my attention.. it's a wonderful work but this and all pictured here, really don't give have the "gravitas" the real things do...



Marco Buono, "Procession of Love" C1480 is an enigmatic small tempera on panel 39cm x 56cm ... finely dressed people solemnly process with wrists bound ..a symbol of extended family ties perhaps but a work that delighted Mrs.Wombat and repayed much looking. 
The limited depth of field and the planar nature of Renaissance painting seems to add the "crowd" effect in this work as do the complimentary contrasts of the reds and the greens in the costuming.


 

The dramatic development in Renaissance painting can be seen in comparing these three works, Giovanni Bellini's "Madonna & Child" (left) was painted some eight years after the Porcession of Love in 1488 and (below) Ambrogio Bergognone's "Madonna Lactans" of 1485. 

The realism of the backgrounds, the attention and understanding of the fall of shadows added to the sophistication of compositional elements is almost a world away from the Buono. 
Yet, they still maintain the spiritual as the Mantegna did.. an aloofness, a seperateness from the ruck.

One of the good things about this exhibition is that the relative smallness of its size some 60 odd works, allowed you to return to works again and again as something more struck you and that the visitors were controlled through in not overly large numbers it was a very comfortable experience.

 





I had not seen Bergognone's work before and what startled me was how much it reminded me of a Pre-Raphaelite painting: Burne-Jones came to mind immediately in the composition; its division of space, the Madonna's hair, the foliage in the background as a screen..... the Englishman I think, must have had a good look at works like these. 
Which also made me think of some contemporary Australian photographers who are showing more and more evidence of being influenced by paintings, some to the extent of mixing metaphors by dropping in elements from different artists and photographers... point is though, they don't seem to credit their sources and effectively, create only a pastiche.... nothing new... It's all hollow!
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood readily acknowledged their sources and still managed to be original in the long run. 






This one of Sandro's (one of two), affected me greatly, it hit me as Pop-Art-for Pretty-Serious-Catholics... after all, he painted it after hearing Savonarola screeching hellfire and brimstone to the Florentines... the halo virtually RADIATES, the colours I felt, are more strident than here ( or was I just getting a whiff of Savanorola?)
I just said "felt" for colour...hmmm.....
The attentuated face and symbolic hands in Botticelli's "Christ the Redeemer", C1500, harks back to earlier times but with the knowledge that once you've "eaten-of-the-fruit ..." there is no going back... hence its anguish of knowledge, unchained. 
Sandro burnt much of his work after hearing Savonarola.  Perhaps he was presaging the monks own demise? 

I loved this work.. I love its considered nature, its emotion, arcane composition and its ultimate power. 






  Supposedly, Cesare Borgia  by Altobello Melone  in 1513 here's a bloke who not afraid of a bit "sturm und stress".  

People wandering through a storm, clenched fists, implacable (good) looks, this gentleman is not that gentle to his opponents and he is looking back, remembering.... the party's going to get rough, petals! 
Almost a monotone of blues contrasted with the gold and the freedom in the brushwork ...this had me thinking of El Greco.... the-times-are-a-changing..... perfection isn't here it never will be.... time is inexorable.

I did not know of this artists work before ...another good thing about this exhibition. .......







......and then, WHACK... in 1507 there was Titian.

Everything seems to come together into a cohesive amalgam of rightness.
There are no dubious bits here; only an expression of an absporption of all that had technically gone before as well as a philosophic understanding of the present state and a capacity to reveal it.
This is what art is.
Here we see space sliding diagonally, sfumato for directional and compositional effects, colour and tone for the same and brush / paint handling..... bliss!  





And then came a summation in Moroni (Mrs. Wombat's "new favourite painter"... I don't think he'll really throw over Delacroix though...) 
1550, all that had had been learnt and was now being put to use for the emerging middle class ... no saints here.. just occasional patrons, even if somewhat doubtful as to their place in history and the veracity of the artist.
Beautiful portraiture, just beautiful.

A terrific exhibition... and ta to Hayley at the boarding desk at Virgin Airlines for limiting our time from sitting in Canberra Airport waiting to fly back to Melbourne from four hours to 20 minutes... mwaaah
To the young couple, particularly, in the exhibition, who looked like they should have been at a football match... forget the notes supplied ... look at the works for more than 15 seconds.... allow you emotions and humanity to be engaged in a one to one ...for once; it will only be of benefit.
You weren't the only ones but were the worst "clocked" during a sit down break. 
One other thing was very noticeable .... there were no cameras: not even surreptitious mobiles! I've never checked the NGA's policy on that but it did make for a more relaxed viewing than some people provided in the Louvre.

cheers petals,
Shane                                            

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