Old Master Drawings: Guercino, Rubens, Tintoretto
22 October 2010 – 2 May 2011. A new exhibition explores why artists have drawn over the centuries – from copying other works to making life studies – and the role of sketching in the creation of artworks. Features 31 drawings from the Old Master collections of the Lady Lever and Walker Art Galleries.
Works by some of the great Italian Renaissance and Northern European artists between 1500 and 1800 are used to examine the reasons for producing drawings.
Some artists use drawing to loosen their wrists before starting painting or sculpting – rather like limbering up before taking part in sport. Others see drawings as a key part of the creative process, where ideas are expressed then retained or discarded. Others are simply doodling or amusing themselves and others.
Artists use drawing as a teaching medium and several examples are in this exhibition. Many artists enjoy the freedom that drawing gives compared to the demands of producing more formal works of art.
Sandra Penketh, head of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, says: “Throughout the centuries drawing has been at the heart of art. Drawing was the language of lines and tones that young artists were taught to use before being allowed to paint or sculpt.
“This exhibition shows how artists made use of drawing for different reasons. We see how artists approached their work, from a humorous sketch to a highly-finished altar design.”
Among the drawings are: Monster animal and peasant, by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino (1591 – 1666). He liked to show off his inventive imagination by drawing bizarre or fantastical creatures, to amuse himself and his friends. Guercino depicts an odd animal – part chicken, part human foot with dog’s ears – watched by a terrified peasant.
God creating Adam and Study for the circumcision are both by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640).
Rubens was just 23 when he copied God creating Adam painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Michelangelo. His interpretation is more naturalistic and animated than the original.
Study for the circumcision was done five years later. This differs in details from the huge finished painting now on the High Altar of Genoa’s Church of the Gesu.
Study of the head of Giuliano de Medici by Michelangelo is by Jacopo Tintoretto (1518 – 1594). The artist admired Michelangelo’s Florentine Medici tomb statues so much that he kept a full-size copy of one in his Venetian studio. This drawing was made from the statue.
Other artists in the exhibition include Luca Signorelli, Giorgio Vasari (author of the Renaissance classic Lives of the Artists), Guido Reni, Claude Lorraine and François Boucher.
Fifteen of the works were bought in 1995 from the Weld Blundell Collection, formerly at Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool.
Old Master Drawings is the first of National Museums Liverpool’s Liverpool and the World exhibition series part-funded by the European Union.