FORT WORTH, TX.-
This summer, the Kimbell Art Museum
is hosting the major international loan exhibition Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, a selection of 55 paintings from Scotlands premier art collections the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Masterworks from the three distinct museums, not seen together in Edinburgh, will be combined in one magnificent display. The show includes an array of works from some of the best-known and well-loved European and even American artists and spans more than 400 years of art history, from the Renaissance to the modern age.
The exhibition, drawn from one of the worlds finest collections of European art, will offer visitors the chance to discover new works by painters already represented in the Kimbells own collectionartists like El Greco, Watteau and Monet, said Kimbell director Eric M. Lee. Equally important is the opportunity to encounter rarely seen masterpieces by Botticelli and Vermeer, among the best-loved painters in history.
Botticelli to Braque features a variety of artists, periods and styles, though each work is marked by its exceptional quality. The selections earliest paintings include primarily religious and mythological subjects: Sandro Botticellis serene Virgin and Child; the sensuous gods and goddesses of Tiziano Vecellio (called Titian) and Paolo Veronese; a depiction of piety in Saint Sebastian Bound for Martyrdom of 162021 by the royal favorite Sir Anthony van Dyck; and Rembrandt van Rijns beguiling A Woman in
Bed of about 164546, which combines the sacred and the profane. The exhibition concludes with works of abstract visual vocabularies from the early 20th century: the minimalist precision of Piet Mondrians Composition with Double Line and Yellow, 1932, and geometrically conceptualized Cubist still lifes by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. In between, a range of 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces, including landscapes, portraits and still lifes, exemplify the remarkable scope of the collections held by the National Galleries of Scotland.
The painting that best represents the celebratory spirit of this exhibition is the famous Skating Minister, said Kimbell deputy director George Shackelford. Sir Henry Raeburn, Scotlands greatest painter, completed the portrait of Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch at the very end of the 18th century, around 1795. The Reverend is posed in profilein mid-skateand the image of freedom and confidence has come to symbolize the Scottish Enlightenment.
Among the highlights of the exhibition are several paintings celebrating the Scottish landscape and its great citizens. Raeburn is represented in the exhibition by three portraitsin addition to the Reverend Walker, there are two full-length portraits of tartan-clad Scottish grandees.
Visitors to Botticelli to Braque discover themes that continue across boundaries of time and place. Thus the intimate view of the goddess Venus as a bather, painted by Titian in the 1520s, corresponds with the tender yet dramatic image of a woman in bed, perhaps representing the Old Testament bride Sarah, painted by Rembrandt van Rijn in the 1640s. (Rembrandts canvas is part of an exceptional group of Dutch paintings of the Golden Age in the exhibition, including works by Frans Hals, Jan Lievens, Gerrit Dou and the young Johannes Vermeer.) If Paul Gauguins Three Tahitians might recall the story of Hercules torn between two womenbetween Virtue and Viceso Fernand Légers Woman and Still Life might take its place in the long tradition of reclining nudes stretching back across the centuries to Renaissance prototypes.
Two masters of the still life, both Spanish, are featured in the exhibition. Diego Velázquez was one of the earliest practitioners of still life painting in Spain, often combining still-life elements with either religious subjects or scenes from daily life. One of his greatest early works is the distinctive Old Woman Cooking Eggs of 1618, with its seemingly artless array of cooking implements contributing to the vivid realism of the subject. Likewise Pablo Picasso, in his Guitar, Gas-Jet, and Bottle, strives to convey a sense of effortless experimentation, making his carefully prepared canvas, with passages of trompe-loeil wood graining and rough areas of gritty paint, seem like a quickly executed collage.
Among the portraits selected for the exhibition, which come from all the galleries, are many that are linked to British history and culture. The Flemish painter Sir Antony van Dyck, closely allied with King Charles I, painted the monarchs daughterswho were the great-granddaughters of Mary, Queen of Scotsas babies in 1637. The three Waldegrave sisters, Lady Charlotte Maria, Lady Elizabeth Laura and Lady Anna Horatia Waldegrave, were painted by the English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds at the request of the young womens uncle, the collector and esthetician Horace Walpole. They are shown collectively engaged in
a refined handicraft, embroidering a cloth with fine silk. A little more than a century later, the American-born painter John Singer Sargent painted an extraordinary likeness of Gertrude, the wife of Sir Andrew Noel Agnew, 9th Baron of Lochnawa lawyer with political ambitions who came from an old Scottish family. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, the portrait was much admired; it brought Sargent his reputation for elegant, sophisticated portraiture and established Lady Agnews status as a beauty and hostess.
Superb landscape compositions concentrate on the remarkable power that earth, trees and sky can exert on a painters imagination. John Constable framed a view of the Vale of Dedham in Essex with trees that present the landscape beyond them as if they were viewersa withered trunk at left is answered by a family of trees huddled together at right. Tall tree trunks winding in a row into the distance give their rhythmic energy to Claude Monets 1891 Poplars on the Epte, sold to the Scottish National Gallery by the influential Glasgow dealer Alexander Reid in 1924. Similarly, twisting branches of a left-hand tree and the dramatic diagonal of another, at right, inject a sense of dynamism into the composition of Paul Cézannes Big Trees. Dating from the last years of Cézannes career, this canvas is one of a series of works painted in the rocky forests near Aix-en-Provence. At this date, Cézanne often left his paintings in an apparently unfinished state, with areas of the primed white canvas showing through, representing patches of light.
The exhibition encompasses a surprising range of periods, styles and countries of origin: Veronese and El Greco in the 16th century give way to Adam Elsheimer and Domenichino in the first years of the 1600s; Jean-Antoine Watteaus graceful dancers contrast with Thomas Gainsboroughs grand portraits in the 18th century; Gainsboroughs English landscapes yield in the 1860s to the River Seine by Camille Pissarro, Niagara Falls by Frederic Edwin Church and the Scottish highlands by Sir Edmund Landseer. Displayed in the gentle light of the Renzo Piano Pavilions south gallery, the 55 masterworks from Edinburgh bring Fort Worth viewers a remarkable opportunity to see the riches of Scotlands three great national galleries united in one exceptional exhibition.