"Botticelli to Braque"

The Marne at Chennevieres, c. 1864-1865, Camille Pissarro, Boticelli to Braque, the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. photo credit: Lisa Marder

If you are in San Francisco this month (May 2015) or near Fort Worth, Texas this coming summer, or in Sydney, Australia from to late-October 2015-mid-January 2016, you shouldn't miss the exhibit Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, currently at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The show runs until May 31 and includes fifty-five master paintings from the three different institutions that together comprise the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The three museums include the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The tour of this exhibit is the only time that the selected paintings can be seen together.

The work includes a variety of artists, styles, and periods, and gives the viewer a quick tour through four-hundred years of art history, beginning with Sandro Botticelli's painting, Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child (c.1490) and ending with Georges Braque's The Candlestick (1911). In between are masterful paintings from Italian, French, English, and Dutch schools of art (artists loosely associated with one another by geography rather than by necessarily a similar style) by the likes of Johannes Vermeer, Thomas Gainsborough,  John Constable,  Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, and Pablo Picasso. The show also includes the works of American painters John Singer Sargent and Frederick Edwin Church, and of course Scottish painters Francis Cadell (1883-1937) and Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841), whose masterpiece, Pitlessie Fair (1804), could keep the viewer occupied for hours enjoying the detailed painting of the activity that represents the cross-section of rural society in Wilkie's home of Fifeshire.

The early works, such as Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, which has not been exhibited outside of Scotland for more than 150 years, are religious paintings while later works from the Renaissance masters, 17th-century painters, Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Cubists include different genres of paintings such as portrait, still life and landscape, and represent the changing treatment of those genres over time.

  

The exhibit contains some gems and singular pieces of artwork, for example, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (c. 1654-1655), which is the largest of the thirty-six paintings by Vermeer in existence today, and is also the only one based on a bible story. The story is from Luke 10:38-42, "in which Martha objected to her sister Mary listening to Jesus while Martha was busy serving. Given the substantial size of the canvas, it is likely that the painting was a specific commission, possibly intended for a Catholic church." (1) Another painting, The Vale of Dedham (1827-1828), a landscape by John Constable, is one that he referred to in a letter of June 1828 as "perhaps my best." Georges Braque's, The Candlestick (1911), was one of the first Cubist paintings to include writing.

Read The Camera Obscura and Painting to learn more about Vermeer's possible use of optical devices such as the camera obscura to obtain the realism evident in his non-religious paintings.

The exhibit will be traveling next to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and will be on display there from June 28, 2015 to September 20, 2015. It is an exhibit well worth seeing.

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REFERENCE

1. Museum label for Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (c. 1654-1655), a painting by Johannes Vermeer at the de Young Museum, in the show Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. April 2015

RESOURCES

Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Tx,  https://www.kimbellart.org/exhibition/botticelli-braque-masterpieces-national-galleries-scotland

Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland, de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, http://deyoung.famsf.org/scotland?gclid=CLXznaK8r8UCFYQkgQodHREAGg