Drawing in Italy from 1550-1650: Works from the Crocker Art Museum and Stephen Solovy Art Foundation
September 11 - November 7, 2004
Between 1550 and 1650, a variety of vibrant political and social pressures influenced the drawing and thinking of the Old Masters. A diversity of stylistic approaches was exhibited in this transitional period, from the prevailing imagined ideal to the most exacting observations of the physical world. Secular and religious subject matter competed for attention. Over 40 artworks selected from the rich resources of the Crocker and Solovy collections investigate and reflect the rich diversity of drawing approaches and the complexity of influences on artists of this time.
Without doubt, the most influential of all the social and aesthetic pressures during this period was the Catholic Church. Following the devastating sack of Rome in 1527 by the French, and the loss of thousands of souls to Protestantism, the church gradually reasserted itself and by the 1590s was actively reestablishing both its temporal and spiritual power. Seeing art as a weapon against Protestantism, the church called upon artists to abandon the ultra-refinements of the current style of art (Mannerism), where imagination and ideals of beauty often transformed artworks into beautiful exaggerations that were difficult to decipher. Artists now working for the church were challenged to create art that was more accessible-clearer, simpler, and with a more realistic and direct appeal to the worshipper.
Traditional Renaissance subject matter, including biblical and mythological subjects, allegories and portraiture, was still of primary importance. However, new themes concerning the centrality of Roman Catholicism appeared, and devotional images took on a new sense of urgency and included depictions of martyrs, sacrifice and religious ecstasy. At the same time, artists began looking with fresh eyes at their surroundings, and observations of ordinary people and of the landscape became a common theme in their drawings.
The selection of drawings in this exhibition aims to give us a glimpse into this dynamically changing world to see how artists invented new solutions to the churches' demands and retained and revised other well-established methods. The choice to exhibit drawings to illustrate this period is a purposeful one. Because of their intimacy and immediacy, drawings often give the viewer a more direct glimpse into the artists' thinking, and thus into the time in which they lived.
The exhibition is organized in conjunction with Professor C. Roxanne Robbin and the University Art Gallery, California State University Stanislaus, where it will also be shown from March 8 - April 5, 2004.