'Hub of the World: Art in 18th Century Rome' opens at Nicholas Hall Gallery
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'Hub of the World: Art in 18th Century Rome' opens at Nicholas Hall Gallery
Jacques-Louis David (Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), A Vestal, 1788-90, oil on canvas. Courtesy Nicholas Hall Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- Today, Nicholas Hall opens Hub of the World: Art in 18th Century Rome, organized in association with the Milanese Galleria Carlo Orsi. Presented at the Upper East Side gallery in New York, the exhibition celebrates the legacy of esteemed American scholar, connoisseur, and artist Anthony M. Clark (1923–1976), whose centenary falls in 2023.

Considered one of the most influential and admired museum professionals of his generation, Clark’s taste for art made in 18th century Rome and Italian painter Pompeo Batoni made a profound impact on American collecting trends in the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition will bring together more than 60 works by artists who lived in or traveled to Rome in the 18th century, and will be complemented by a selection of Clark’s personal notebooks and a portrait photograph on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

After graduating from Harvard, Clark’s distinguished career began in 1955 at the Rhode Island School of Design before he went on to prominent curatorial roles at the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, of which he later became director. He also taught art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, N.Y.U. and Williams College, Williamstown. During his tenure at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, Clark made significant acquisitions for the institutions and organized world-class exhibitions as a pioneering American scholar of 18th century Rome.

The Hub of the World will bring to light the fundamental role Clark played in the revival of interest among American museums in collecting work from this period. Clark deeply believed in the importance of Roman Settecento painting, drawing and sculpture, and this passion is brilliantly reflected in his scholarship and writings. As a curator, he consistently created a historic context for art by showing sculpture and decorative arts alongside paintings and drawings at a time when it was customary to maintain a ‘hierarchy’ of the arts by studying and displaying the mediums separately.

Tragically Clark succumbed to a heart attack at age 53 while jogging in his favorite city where, at the time, he was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Born in Philadelphia, Clark worked closely with curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art over the course of his career and, in 2000, the PMA—in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—mounted The Splendor of 18th Century Rome, which was dedicated to his memory.

“Anthony Clark was a larger-than-life character who changed the way we look at Old Masters. He rescued the art of 18th century Rome from obscurity by dint of his own personal enthusiasm and brilliant scholarship. He had enormous personal charm; the son of the owner of two works in the exhibition remembers how, as a boy, he enjoyed Clark's visits to see his parents. Clark, an avid ornithologist, later bequeathed to him a stuffed Green Woodpecker,” said Nicholas Hall. “Our exhibition is an homage to a great scholar, a tastemaker and a dedicated museum professional."

Hub of the World highlights the richness of the culture of 18th century Rome with its extraordinary mixture of patronage–from Popes and Cardinals, Roman aristocrats and visiting foreigners–that attracted the likes of German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from whom the exhibition borrows its title. Goethe deemed Rome the “hub of the world”, writing that “the entire history of the world is linked up with this city…” Hall and Orsi have gathered a diverse selection of paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts that will provide a rare opportunity to experience the cosmopolitan appeal of 18th century Rome.

Hub of the World will be headlined by View of the Villa Medicis by Hubert Robert (Paris 1733-1808), painted in 1759 during the artist's transformative time working in Rome and on loan from the Assadour O. Tavitian Trust. A recent discovery, the exceptional work has rarely been on view to the public--previously only exhibited in the U.S. briefly at the National Gallery of Art.

Other works on view will include the Hemp Harvest in Caserta executed by Jackob Philipp Hackert for the King of Naples; a portrait of the Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico by Anton Raphael Mengs that remained in the sitter’s family until the last decade; a unique view of the Villa Albani by Vanvitelli–who, alongside Piranesi, produced some of the most memorable images of 18th century Rome–recorded in the inventory of Cardinal Albani; painted by Angelika Kauffmann, a pair of oil on coppers based on James Thomson’s pastoral poetry that newly resurfaced from a private Kenyan collection; a caricature painting by Joshua Reynolds R.A. recently discovered at the estate where it has hung for over two centuries; A Vestal by Jacques-Louis David painted in Rome; a harbor scene painted on copper by Claude Joseph Vernet; Anton von Maron’s portrait of two English gentlemen before the Arch of Constantine; the ‘Rockingham Silenus’, a 1st century sculpture reworked by the celebrated Roman sculptor Bartolomeo Cavaceppi; a set of candelabras in the form of Antonius-Osirus by Luigi Valadier and a console table designed by Antonio Asprucci, made for the Egyptian Room in the Palazzo Borghese. The exhibition pays tribute to Clark as an expert on Pompeo Batoni, represented by a painting of Saint Louis Gonzaga and its preparatory drawing in red chalk, among several other works. Once belonging to Clark, a painting of the artist Paolo de Matteis by Pier Leone Ghezzi, will also be showcased.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Nicholas Hall and Galleria Carlo Orsi will publish a fully illustrated catalogue, which will include original essays by Italian art experts and renowned historians Edgar Peters Bowron, Alvar Gonzáles-Palacios, Melissa Beck Lemke, and J. Patrice Marandel.

Nicholas Hall Gallery
Hub of the World: Art in 18th Century Rome
October 6th, 2023 - November 30th, 2023

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