Northern Visions of Rome and Ruins: Dutch, German and French Drawings, circa 1580-1780
February 21 - May 16, 2004
For nearly 200 years before Giovanni Battista Piranesi compiled his seminal portfolio of prints, Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome), northern artists produced evocative depictions of the Roman countryside and the classical ruins associated with it in paintings, drawings, and prints. Their works were inspired by early sixteenth-century artists such as Jan Gossaert and Maerten van Heemskerk, whose prints and sketchbook sheets documented major Roman antiquities, as well as Renaissance Venetian artists including Titian, Giorgione, and Giulio and Domenico Campagnola, who incorporated Arcadian landscapes into their allegorical, mythological, and portrait subjects. Many northern artists increasingly embraced the tradition of composing scenes or using motifs that called to mind the sun-drenched Roman landscape and its antique past. Indeed, late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century northern landscape painters flocked to Italy, with sketchbooks in hand, to indulge their growing taste for the Italian Renaissance. Their work merged these Italianate forms with Netherlandish pictorial traditions, often creating scenes at once "Italianate" and distinctively "Northern." Especially in the years following the Protestant Reformation, these artists adapted the motifs and lessons they learned in Italy to pictures with secular subject matter, making them particularly appealing to the north's emerging middle class.
The exhibition includes 15 Dutch, French, and German drawings from the Crocker's permanent collection and explores the phenomenon of northern draftsmen who embraced the subjects of the southern landscape, and who often adopted Italianate modes of drawing. Many, including Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Jan van Huysum, Herman van Swanevelt, Christian Friedrich Boetius, Pierre Patel the Elder, Gaspard Dughet, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, traveled to Italy between the late sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries to draw a variety of real and imagined classical monuments and Roman landscapes. Others, including Johann Roos and Gabriele de Saint-Aubin, may have never visited Italy but were so influenced by those who had that they adopted their subject matter and warm "tonalist" approaches. This exhibition raises questions about the function of Italianate motifs and approaches to landscape in northern drawings and how and why such subject matter achieved popularity. It also introduces the question of what, if anything, constitutes the "Dutchness," "Germanness," or "Frenchness" of these otherwise Italianate landscapes, introducing the visitor to some of the ways this tradition manifested itself in the north.