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Crocker Art Museum shows drawings by exceptional 18th-century Venetian masters Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo
Domenico Tiepolo, A Centaur Playing with Punchinellos, n.d. Pen and brown ink, brush and brown washes over traces of black chalk on cream laid paper, 35.9 x 47.5 cm (14 1/8 x 18 11/16 inches). Eskenazi Museum of Art, The Anthony Moravec Collection of Old Master Drawings 2010.129.

SACRAMENTO, CA.- This fall, the Crocker Art Museum brings to Sacramento an exhibition of master drawings by two of 18th-century Italy’s most famous draftsmen, the father and son Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo. Masters of Venice: Drawings by Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo from the Anthony J. Moravec Collection offers an engaging experience of luminous compositions, as the Tiepolos’ splendid drawings — and the works of other Venetian artists — provide a unique view into the distinctive art of Italy’s lagoon city.

On view from October 29, 2017 – February 4, 2018, Masters of Venice provides new insight into two of the city's most important artists. Eighteenth-century Venice was not only home to a lively community of artists and the finest publishing and printmaking industry in Europe, but its unique architecture and traditions also made it a cultural destination for artists, aristocrats, and royalty. Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and his son Domenico (1727–1804) were the most renowned Venetian artists during this period, with patrons across Italy and Europe. In 2010, Indiana businessman and philanthropist Anthony J. Moravec donated a collection of drawings by the Tiepolos to Indiana University’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington, expanding its Tiepolo holding to make it the third largest in the nation.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of 12 drawings from Domenico Tiepolo’s New Testament cycle, from what is believed to be the largest such cycle produced by a single artist. These large, ink and wash drawings are not studies for other works, but rather unique designs that showcased the artist’s deep understanding of the religious subject matter and his careful observation of the world around him. While most of the events from the New Testament are familiar, others are more rarely depicted, yet even in the most iconic scenes, Domenico brings out the humanity of the story.

“Domenico Tiepolo was an extraordinary storyteller,” says Crocker Art Museum Curator William Breazeale. “His talent for bringing together faith and inventive composition is apparent throughout his religious drawings.”

While Domenico’s New Testament series shows scenes of devout prayer, swooping angels, the penitent faithful, and a menacing Satan, the artist also ventures into lively mythological drawings of centaurs, and his most famous series, scenes of Punchinello. Drawn from the characters in the popular theater, the commedia dell’arte, the series shows Punchinello as an everyman, dancing and stumbling through life’s celebrations and tragedies.

Although the collector of these works focused largely on Domenico’s work, it is not surprising that he also acquired excellent examples by the artist’s father, Giambattista Tiepolo. One of the most productive 18th-century artists, Giambattista — assisted by Domenico — frescoed enormous palaces, in addition to producing narrative paintings, etchings, and a large number of drawings. Giambattista Tiepolo was particularly talented at capturing gleaming contrasts of light in all his works, using washes to define textures in his scenes as well as his famous caricatures.

“Perhaps because of the unusual light in the lagoon city — with its bright reflections and deep shadows — he created shimmering, glowing drawings with abundant warm brown washes,” says Breazeale. “In the Flight into Egypt, for example, he depicts the Holy Family leading a braying donkey past a grove of barren trees, and creates a remarkable experience of light and shade as he defines the landscape and figures with varying patches of wash.”

Along with the drawings by the Tiepolos, Masters of Venice includes drawings by their predecessors and contemporaries, including Ubaldo Gandolfi and Giuseppe Bernardino Bison. A selection of 12 Venetian drawings from the Crocker's permanent collection accompanies the exhibition, expanding our view of the city's rich artistic tradition.

This exhibition is organized by The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University. It is accompanied by a full-color catalogue by Adelheid Gealt, director and curator of Western art emerita at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, with contributions by the late George Knox, an authority on Venetian art. The catalogue includes works by the Tiepolos that are published for the first time.

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