Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rembrandt Drawings and Prints

The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrated the 400th birthday of Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn with the display July 11 - October 15, 2006 of a selection of 58 drawings and prints from its extensive collection of works by the great 17th-century Dutch master and artists of his school. Forty-four of the works on view were by Rembrandt himself.

Rembrandt's graphic works illustrate, perhaps even better than his paintings, the range of the artist's creative genius – his spontaneity, artistic inventiveness, and rethinking of traditional media. His subject matter ranges from the directly observed (landscapes, portraits, and sketches of people and animals from life) to the invented (most notably biblical scenes).

Rembrandt was fascinated with subjects from the Old and New Testaments, and in his portrayals of these subjects he revealed the realistic human emotion and narrative detail that these stories inspired.

Landscapes were another favored subject.

The Three Trees,

in which he evoked the typically blustery and rainy Dutch weather, is the most intensely dramatic of these works. He created many of his landscape drawings, like

Houses by the Water,

in nature, on his wanderings through in the countryside outside of Amsterdam. He made others like the classically composed

Cottages among Trees

once he had returned to his studio.

Rembrandt's drawings reveal the artist's keen powers of observation. He executed them with the utmost freedom and spontaneity, yet no line is extraneous – he invested each stroke with meaning, either representational or expressive. Among the outstanding drawings in the museum's collection are

Two Cottages, 1635-40,

Two Studies of a Woman Reading, 1635-40,

and Study Sheet with Three Women and a Boy, 1635-40.

Rembrandt was a bold and unconventional printmaker. He worked some etchings almost like paintings, combining techniques, leaving veils of ink on the copperplate, printing on varying supports, and radically reworking images from State to state. These were characteristics that few of his contemporaries or pupils ever approximated. Among the great Rembrandt prints in the collection are the introspective portrait of the goldsmith

Jan Lutma the Elder, 1656,

printed on golden-toned japan paper, that evokes the shifting play of light on the sitter.

By the 1650s, Rembrandt began to treat the printing plate much like a canvas, leaving some ink or tone on the surface of the printing plate in order to create "painted" impressions of prints in which each impression would look different depending on the way he had inked the plate.

The Three Crosses

is Rembrandt's great masterpiece of this period. The Museum's impression, once thought to be the second state but now considered an impression of the first, was printed on vellum, a surface that brings a warm overall tone to the image and emphasizes the richness of the ink that the artist left on the surface of the plate and the velvety burr created by his drypoint lines. Rembrandt completely reworked The Three Crosses in the fourth state of the print. Here he completely transformed the copperplate of The Three Crosses by scraping away large portions of the original composition, some of which are still visible underneath the hatching.

Rembrandt had many pupils. Many of them followed his style closely, more so in drawings – which appears to have been in certain ways a much more personal medium for the artist – than in prints.

Among the remarkable sheets by known pupils is

Ferdinand Bol's commanding David Showing Saul the Tip of His Coat, 1636-41.

Other skillful drawings defy attribution, like the charming

Studies of Two Men and a Woman Teaching a Child to Walk, 1645-50.

The exhibition was organized by Nadine M. Orenstein, Curator, and Rachel Stern, Research Assistant, both of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Drawings and Prints.

Bonhams offers Hockney, Picasso, Thiebaud, Warhol, Stella Prints

Bonhams will offering a strong selection of Prints and Multiples, October 22 in San Francisco, and simulcast in Los Angeles. A leading highlight on offer is a colored Pablo Picasso linocut print

"Après la Pique," 1959 (est. $40,000-60,000).

Pop art is well represented in the sale. A Robert Rauschenberg mixed media work of "Sling-Shots Lit #6" from the Sling-Shots Lit Series, 1985 (est. $30,000-40,000) is a prominent piece from the category. The work is in assemblage with a sailcloth, mylar, wooden lightbox, fluorescent light fixture, aluminum, moveable window shade system and Plexiglas bars.

A Wayne Thiebaud colored woodcut of "Dark Cake," 1983 (est. $30,000-50,000)

stands out in the sale,

along with a David Hockney colored lithograph on paper and screenprint on plexiglas of

"Walking Past Two Chairs, from Moving Focus," 1984-86, depicting black and red chairs, a table and a vase of flowers (est. $30,000-50,000).

There will also be Andy Warhol offerings, including two screenprint works on paper:

"Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1482," from Details of Renaissance Paintings, 1984 (est. $60,000-80,000)

and the brightly colored "One Plate, from Flowers," 1970 (est. $20,000-30,000).

Two works in the sale provide eye-catching illusions: a colorful screenprint by

Frank Stella of "Double Gray Scramble," 1973 (est. $20,000-30,000)

and an untitled, 1965 black and white screenprint on plexiglass by Bridget Riley (est. $12,000-16,000) featuring a zigzag pattern.

The auction will also feature nine works by Ellsworth Kelly, including colored lithographs on paper of

"Blue Curve; Red Curve; Green Curve; Black Curve; Purple Curve, 2000" (est. $20,000-30,000).

Highlights continue with

a lithograph on paper by Henri Matisse of "Figure devant tapa Africain," 1929 (est. $15,000-25,000);

a drypoint on laid paper by Martin Lewis of "Chance Meeting," 1940-41, depicting a man and woman meeting by a newspaper stand (est. $8,000-12,000);

and a screenprint on paper by Edward Ruscha of "Made in California," 1971, featuring the words in liquid form against an orange background (est. $8,000-12,000).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s

Political, economic, and social turmoil shaped Germany's short-lived Weimar Republic (1919–1933). These pivotal years also became a most creative period of 20th-century German culture, generating innovation in literature, music, film, theater, and architecture. In painting, a trend of matter-of-fact realism took hold in Germany like nowhere else in Europe. Disillusioned by the cataclysm of World War I, the most vital German artists moved towards a Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), in particular its branch known as Verism. These artists looked soberly, cynically, and even ferociously at their fellow citizens and found their true métier in portraiture, as seen in the 40 paintings and 60 works on paper featured in Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 14, 2006 – February 19, 2007, included gripping portraits by ten renowned artists: Max Beckmann, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Karl Hubbuch, Ludwig Meidner, Christian Schad, Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz, and Gert H. Wollheim.

This landmark presentation was the first anywhere to focus on the portraiture of the Weimar period. In these gripping images, the rootless society that flourished or floundered during these years in metropolises such as Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Dresden jolts back to life.

Although memorialized in song and story for the escapist thrills of erotic cabaret shows, wild dancing, frenzied jazz, and sexual licentiousness, German cities of the 1920s were in the throes of rampant unemployment, hyperinflation, and social panic. After the initial patriotic fervor, followed by the crippling devastation of World War I, the Verists questioned their own involvement in this war and focused on the country's quickly changing social landscape and uncertain political future.

Forgoing new modes of abstraction, the artists found worthy subjects in urban denizens of all walks of life, from the war wounded to the art dealer. With a marked abhorrence of idealization, the Verists' portraits captured the stark existence of a populace through an incisive and often satiric form of realism. Their psychological portraits do not attempt to reproduce likenesses, as in the conservative painting styles popular at the time. Rather, with savage distortions of the face and the figure, the artist turns the sitter into an exaggerated type that reflects the extremes of a turbulent era: wealth and poverty, glamour and violence, decadence and banality.

People of vastly different backgrounds came together in the common pursuit of pleasure as Germany's traditional class structure and moral strictures collapsed. Christian Schad's portraits depict the modern individual caught between debauchery and ennui. In

Count St. Genois d'Anneaucourt (1927),

Schad places the jaded and aging Count between the cold profile of a mannish woman and the willowy figure of her rival, a transvestite.

Many of the artists suffered from the lingering trauma of the war, and their portraits convey a pervasive malaise.

In Max Beckmann's Dance in Baden-Baden (1923),

stylishly dressed couples go through the motions of living the high life, their expressions indifferent and weary. Even the artists themselves seem be to role-playing, as seen in Beckmann's forced pose as a bon vivant in

Self-Portrait with Champagne Glass (1919).

Social criticism also took more pointedly political forms, when artists filled with anger and distrust satirized corrupt individuals in scathing portraits.

George Grosz's The Pillars of Society (1926)

mocks politicians, military men, and priests, who grit their teeth and puff their cheeks while violence and destruction loom in the background.

The exhibition also featured

Grosz's large painting Eclipse of the Sun (1926),

which was on extended loan from the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, New York. In this major work, Grosz attacks the incompetence and weakness of German political leaders and foretells of the demise of the Weimar Republic.

Although their subjects were purely contemporary, artists such as Otto Dix and Christian Schad were inspired by 16th-century German masters, such as Cranach, Dürer, Holbein, and Grünewald. Otto Dix adhered most closely to their painting techniques, while exploring the particular vices of the Weimar era. Dix sought out a brutal truth by looking unflinchingly at the most grotesque, violent, and debased aspects of society. Typical of his subject matter is

The Salon I(1921),

which portrays four elderly prostitutes in cheap finery that fails to hide their decrepitude.

Dix's 1925 portrait of Anita Berber

immortalizes the infamous dancer, nude performer, actress, seductress of men and women, and cocaine addict, who, in her brief career (1916-28), distilled the excesses, glamour, and misery of the Weimar Republic. With more than 50 works by Otto Dix, this exhibition was the first major presentation of the artist's work in the U.S.

With harsh candor and biting humor, the portraits in the exhibition dissect a Weimar demimonde of prostitutes and profiteers, war veterans and war widows, performers and poets. The Verists themselves were part of this shattered world, mingling in the crowd with former aristocrats, middle-class doctors, and businessmen. Their powerful images serve as mirrors to a glittering yet doomed society. With Hitler's rise to power in 1933 and the end of the Weimar Republic, artists lost their teaching positions, their work was banned, and many of them went into exile.

German museum collections in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, Mannheim, Münich, Stuttgart, and Wuppertal lent works to the exhibition. Additional portraits will be on loan from museums in Paris, Madrid, New York, and Toronto, as well as from private collections in Germany, Australia, New York, and Chicago.

The exhibition was organized by Sabine Rewald, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator in the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art.

She is also the author of the exhibition catalogue, published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press. The publication includes essays by Ian Buruma and Matthias Eberle.

From an outstanding review (images added):

In the past two months I've returned a dozen times, on each occasion seeing something completely different: the heady influence of cabaret; of wacky doctors and modern medicine; of Neue Sachlichkeit and the tortuous realism of the Weimar Republic; and numerous other influences from the magic Realists to the demi-monde of prostitutes and their johns. Here sleek elegance meets tattered old whores, and scads of twisted and contorted figures underscore so much of the depravity and grotesqueness of the era. Early this morning, for example, I encountered a guard staring transfixed at George Grosz's "Pillars of Society" (1926); she offered the most prescient comment before the exhibition rooms began to fill up: "At first, it wasn't so crowded, but word of mouth spread like wildfire." And indeed, within 30 minutes once again the galleries were packed, with patrons examining the hideous figures, ominous scenes, and deeply insightful views on war.

As with his "The Eclipse of the Sun" (1926, on loan from the Heckscher Museum in Huntington), Grosz deftly attacks the inept Hindenburg government, making no secret of his obvious detestation of the evil forces at work in Weimar society. Hideous, twisted veterans figure in various paintings, less prominently in

Grosz's "Gray Day" (1921)

than in Dix's utterly wrecked "Skat Players" (1920, photo above).

With their nearly-innumerable prosthetic devices, one figure holds cards with a foot, another holds a card in his teeth.

Otto Dix's portraiture is also unforgiving of the aging figures of Berlin.

Poet Iwar von Lücken (1926)

is depicted in rumpled and shabby clothes, with huge, rake-like hands, a head with huge, bulging veins, craggy face and sunken eyes. Poor von Lücken starved in Paris during the first winter of World War II.

Sadness seems transformed into rapaciousness in Dix's portrait of the art dealer

Alfred Flechtheim (1926),

whose enormous and similarly rake-like hands suggest the money-grubbing inherent to his art business; in addition to the enormous nose, tweed suit and Cubist (i.e. dated) painting on the wall, all the elements crudely and succinctly reduce Flechtheim to the archetypical greedy Jew.

Dix had two years earlier painted the art dealer

Johanna Ey,

whose unflattering portrait features this enormous, full-bodied figure in a fur-trimmed purple dress, here appearing almost aristocratic with a tiara, ruby earrings, huge eyes and elongated chubby face.

Rotundness also figures in a painting of

Dr. Mayer-Hermann (1926),

where the portly doctor's bulbousness seems magnified by the all cylindrical objects surrounding him.

Dix's portrait of

Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann (1922),

meanwhile, reduces this patron of Dada to a possessed freak with Svengali-like, hypnotic eyes. In a sharp suit with flowing hair and a greenish-grayish face, the clenched hands of Stadelmann lend an additional otherworldly if not demonic demeanor.

Twisted and contorted hands also figure prominently in Dix's cruel portrait of the

Jeweler Karl Krall (1923),

where vibrant tones highlight this dandy with a birdlike chest, standing in an effeminate pose, with reddish-gray cherubic face and hands splayed suggestively on his hips. Little wonder Krall quickly gave the portrait to the Nationalgalerie in Berlin!

Manicured and lacquered claws also figure prominently in paintings of females; Dix paints Anita Berber (1925) as rather spent from years of drug use—she died three years later—in a wild red dress, tightly shaped around her otherwise supple body. Though the paunch of this aging starlet is obvious, her face is haunting, with pursed red lips, green eyes, outlandish mascara, thin penciled-in eyebrows and wild red hair. All these reds—as with Krall—seem additionally vampirish against the red background. Stated differently, the lady is a vamp?

Similarly, Grosz's portraits are no less haunting:

Max Herrmann-Neisse (1925)

depicts the writer as wrinkled, with sagging features, an enormous skull, sunken eyes and huge protruding veins.

A somewhat more gentle and less dramatic version from 1927

hangs inconspicuously in the rather hidden third-floor staircase at the Museum of Modern Art. The latter portrait nevertheless still depicts a grotesque and veiny skull, though sans enormous ruby ring that figures so prominently in the Mannheim painting.

There is no shortage of hideousness in the Weimar depiction of women, ranging from youngish whores to elderly whores. Dix's The Salon 1 (1921) prominently portrays one aging prostitute squeezing her right breast while the other three seated together at the table stare off into space. The wallpaper, drapery and white lace contrast sharply with these chalk-colored painted ladies. Indeed one could probably write a doctoral thesis comparing the milieu of this painting with that of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon fifteen years earlier.

Christian Schad's "Two Girls" (1928) features a rather lush masturbation scene;

his "Agosta, the Pigeon-Chested Man, and Rasha, the Black Dove" (1929) offers the contrasting sideshow freaks of a busty black woman at front and the hideously deformed Agosta at rear;

and heady sexuality impregnate both "Baroness Vera Wassilko" (1926)

and "Count St. Genois d'Anneaucourt" (1927).

Do additionally inspect the female hands as portrayed in

"The Old Actress" (1926) by Max Beckmann

plus his portrait of Fridel Battenberg (1920).

Then perhaps contrast these females with the wild decadence seen in Beckmann's "Self Portrait with Champagne Glass" (1919)

and Dix's "To Beauty" (1922),

wherein Dix poses next to a wild-looking black jazz musician. (Note Dix's clenched left fist on the telephone, right hand in pocket.)

Coupled with Schad's dreamlike and hypersexual

"Self-Portrait" (1927),

it seems the artists' self-indulgence or wallowing in whoring allows them to depict these women as their accessories in a slightly more flattering milieu. Nevertheless, all three self-portraits show deeply conflicting emotions, the pain simultaneously felt with pleasure.

More images:

Northern Mannerist Prints from the Kainen Collection

A spectacular selection of northern mannerist prints from the Kainen Collection will be showcased at the National Gallery of Art this fall. Northern Mannerist Prints from the Kainen Collection will be on view from September 1, 2013, to January 5, 2014. In 2012, the Gallery received 781 works as the bequest of Ruth Cole Kainen, including this school as one of its strengths. The exhibition includes every major artist of this extraordinary style and features many of their masterpieces, including

Hendrick Goltzius’ early Mars and Venus,

Jacob Matham’s monumental Table of Cebes,

Jan Muller’s heroic plates of


and the Apotheosis of the Arts,

and Aegidius Sadeler’s portrait of Bartholomaeus Spranger with his deceased wife Christina in both a rare, unfinished state

and an impression of the completed print.

Jan Muller, after Bartholomaeus Spranger, Minerva and Mercury Arming Perseus, 1604, engraving, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

This exhibition concerns the incredibly sophisticated and virtuoso style of printmaking that flourished in the northern Netherlands during the last two decades of the 16th century and became an international phenomenon that lingered into the next century. Of nearly 100 northern mannerist prints bequeathed by Ruth Cole Kainen in 2012, the exhibition presents some 50, providing so many fine examples that this celebration of the bequest is equally an excellent introduction to the style.

Hendrick Goltzius, the pioneer of the style, defined this language in works of his own design and in translations of the rarified, often erotically charged subjects of Bartholomaeus Spranger, who served as official painter to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II at Prague. Trained by Goltzius, a circle of engravers featuring Jacob Matham, Jan Saenredam, and Jan Muller developed variations on this style for interpreting their master’s designs, those of other leading Dutch artists, and many more inventions of Spranger. Inspired by this school, Flemish master Aegidius Sadeler went to Prague and collaborated directly with court artists to create some of the most extraordinary works of this style. Together the works of these printmakers constitute the last great expression of mannerism. In turn they expanded both the formal vocabulary of European art and the technical possibilities of the medium of engraving.

Augmenting superb impressions of several of Goltzius’ own engravings— rivaling the excellence of Albrecht Dürer—are two complete sets of Goltzius’ most elegant designs rendered by Saenredam. Also featured are Spranger’s most significant inventions, alternating between sensuous mythologies and complex allegories. As a counterpart to these works of the Prague school is an exceptional group by the principal artists in the northern Netherlands, from Goltzius' audacious set of four transgressors from ancient mythology, to Saenredam’s exquisitely refined plates after Abraham Bloemaert’s designs.

Jacob and Ruth Cole Kainen

Jacob and Ruth Cole Kainen were among the most important friends and benefactors of the Gallery. From 1975 until Ruth Cole Kainen’s death in 2009 they gave the Gallery a total of 1,289 European and American works, principally prints and drawings. To celebrate Ruth Cole Kainen’s 2012 bequest, and more broadly the Kainens’ achievement as collectors and benefactors, the Gallery will present a series of three exhibitions dedicated to areas of their greatest interest: northern mannerism; German prints and drawings, especially by the expressionists; and American modernism through abstract expressionism.

Ruth Cole Kainen (1922–2009), who began collecting art in the early 1960s, married Jacob Kainen, a painter, draftsman, and printmaker. She served on the National Gallery of Art Trustees' Council from November 1989 to December 1995 and again from March 2008 until her death in September 2009.

Jacob Kainen (1909–2001), who had numerous gallery and museum shows to his credit, was also an internationally known curator and scholar. He helped to build and manage the print collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, arranged numerous exhibitions, and published research on subjects as varied as 16th-century mannerism, 18th-century Venetian etchings and woodcuts, and German expressionism.

Ruth Cole Kainen's recent bequest of 781 European and American works of art covers five centuries, ranging in date from 1531 through the 1980s. The 10 paintings, 39 watercolors and drawings, and 732 etchings, engravings, woodcuts, lithographs, and illustrated books represent a comprehensive range of schools, styles, and subjects, reflecting her delight in many different types of art.

Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Art

The Gallery's collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books consists of more than 105,000 European and American works on paper and vellum, dating from the 11th century to the present day. Because works on paper are highly susceptible to overexposure to light, they can be exhibited only for short periods. For that reason, the Gallery maintains a schedule of changing exhibitions drawn from its own collection or on loan from other institutions and private individuals. Drawings and prints not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6380.


This exhibition is curated by Jonathan Bober, curator and head of old master prints, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Hendrik Goltzius
Pietà, 1596
engraving on laid paper
plate: 18.7 x 12.7 cm (7 3/8 x 5 in.)
sheet: 18.8 x 12.8 cm (7 3/8 x 5 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
The Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1584
engraving on laid paper
overall: 47.6 x 37.1 cm (18 3/4 x 14 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
Apollo, 1588

engraving on laid paper
plate: 35.3 x 26.5 cm (13 7/8 x 10 7/16 in.)
sheet: 35.7 x 27.9 cm (14 1/16 x 11 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Aegidius Sadeler II
Emperor Mathias, 1614
engraving on laid paper
sheet: 67.2 °— 42 cm (26 7/16 °— 16 9/16 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Abraham Bloemaert
Juno, c.1610
etching on laid paper
sheet: 14.3 x 11.4 cm (5 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius, after Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem
Ixion, 1588
engraving on laid paper
sheet: 33.2 x 33.5 cm (13 1/16 x 13 3/16 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius, after Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem
Tantalus, 1588

engraving on laid paper
sheet: 33 x 33.1 cm (13 x 13 1/16 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
Hans Bol, 1593-1594
engraving on laid paper
sheet: 26.4 x 18.1 cm (10 3/8 x 7 1/8 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
The Allegory of Fame and History, 1596
engraving on laid paper
sheet: 37 x 23.1 cm (14 9/16 x 9 1/8 in.) (trimmed to plate mark)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Jan Muller
Lot and His Daughters, c.1600
engraving on laid paper
plate: 42.2 °— 45.7 cm (16 5/8 °— 18 in.)
sheet: 44.5 °— 48.8 cm (17 1/2 °— 19 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, 1585
engraving on laid paper
plate: 42 x 31 cm (16 9/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
sheet: 44.1 x 32.4 cm (17 3/8 x 12 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Hendrik Goltzius
Titus Manlius Torquatus, 1586
engraving on laid paper
sheet: 37 °— 23.1 cm (14 9/16 °— 9 1/8 in.) (trimmed)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen