The landscapes in Piero's paintings, particularly his Baptism of Christ (The National Gallery, London), are often thought to recall the area around his hometown of Borgo San Sepolcro. In truth, they evoke the upper Tiber Valley without describing it precisely. But what did it mean to locate sacred scenes in a recognizable and local setting? Did that landscape carry any connotations for the fifteenth-century residents of Borgo San Sepolcro that might be lost to us today? This lecture is made possible by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.
The Kodak camera was introduced in 1888 and quickly captured the imagination of the public, amateur photographers, and artists. Thousands of photographs, only recently discovered in the attics and archives of artists working in the 1890s, reveal their fascination with this new tool. While some snapshots relate closely to their painted work, others indicate an exploration far beyond the artists' known work in oil on canvas and expand our understanding of their oeuvre.
More often celebrated as a painter, Piero della Francesca was also a pioneering mathematician. This lecture discusses Piero’s mathematical achievements, focusing on his precocious mastery of the teachings of the Greek geometrician Archimedes. Shortly after his death, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, published two of Piero’s treatises under his own name and conveyed Piero’s knowledge of geometry to Leonardo da Vinci, who later became an expert in the subject. This lecture is made possible by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.
In the late nineteenth century, artistic visionaries saw the drawn and printed line as a signpost of modernity. Long overshadowed by oil paintings, prints and drawings created from the 1860s to the 1890s have a different story to tell, one of artistic spontaneity and experimentation.
Around 1555 the Duke of Alba commissioned three life-sized bronze busts by the great Italian Renaissance portraitist Leone Leoni: one of himself, one of the Hapsburg emperor Charles V, and one of the emperor’s son, Philip II of Spain. Though the busts depict sitters of different rank— a duke, an emperor, and a king—Leoni presents them almost identically, as armored warriors in the cause of the Counter Reformation. For more than a century the busts have adorned the Guard Chamber at Windsor Castle, surrounded by actual weaponry and armor.
When Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to the South of France in 1888, the rural environs inspired him to revisit some of the central themes of his Dutch years, such as the changing seasons and the "labors of the fields." At the same time, his work was greatly influenced by his admiration for Japanese art and culture, coupled with his ambition to create distinctly modern pictures. This lecture discusses Van Gogh's Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier) in the context of these interests, which played such a crucial role in the painter's efforts t
Judy Sund of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York presents: Van Gogh's Peasants: The Essence of Earthiness. Van Gogh's portraits of Patience Escalier, one of which will be on loan to the Frick this fall, were part of his long-term project to capture the essence of the peasant. Inspired by literary descriptions as well as by the art of the past, he was intent on giving definitive form to a well-established type.
"Antico: A Pioneer of Renaissance Sculpture," by Claudia Kryza-Gersch, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, May 2, 2012. Antico dedicated himself to reviving the forms and splendors of ancient sculpture. This lecture will explore the artist's pioneering role in establishing the bronze statuette as a new Renaissance genre; his innovative exploration of the classical bust and the female nude; and his invention of techniques for creating superbly finished versions of his bronzes that rival the technical achievements of the ancients.
Alex Gordon Lecture in the History of Art: "Renoir and the Democracy of Fashion," by Aileen Ribeiro, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, March 28, 2012. The period after the fall of the Second Empire in France saw huge developments in the fashion industry, not just in haute couture, but also in the greater availability of ready-to-wear clothes and in the emergence of Paris's shopping culture. More people than ever before expressed an interest in fashion trends, a phenomenon that was reflected in contemporary art and literature.
"Renoir and the Woman of Paris," by Anne Distel, independent scholar, March 7, 2012. In characterizing Renoir's art, Cézanne once said that his old friend had "painted the woman of Paris." Cézanne's insight provides the point of departure for this lecture, which takes a closer look at Renoir's female figures.