The Cantor Arts Center: Myth, Allegory and Faith and a Preview of a Hopper
More than 180 works, selected from one of the most extensive private collections of Mannerist prints in the world, epitomize the 16th-century's extravagant and sophisticated style. On view at Stanford University's Cantor Arts Center, Myth, Allegory and Faith: The Kirk Edward Long Collection of Mannerist Prints reveals the scope and depth of this exemplary collection for the first time. The exhibition of engravings, etchings, woodcuts and chiaroscuro woodcuts by renowned artists and famous printmakers of the era continues through June 20, 2016.
Aegidius Sadeler II (Flanders, c. 1570–1629) after Bartolomeus Spranger (Flanders, 1546–1611); Wisdom Conquers Ignorance, c. 1600, Engraving. Lent by Kirk Edward Long
The exhibition familiarizes visitors with the development of the Mannerist style in Italy, traces its dissemination through Europe, shows its adaptation for both secular and religious purposes and follows its eventual transformation into the baroque style at the end of the century. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Cantor Arts Center is co-publishing an illustrated catalogue of Kirk Edward Long's entire collection of 700 works with essays by 10 scholars and 146 entries discussing individual works and suites.
The exhibition begins with Mannerism’s primary sources, a fascination with classical antiquity and the overwhelming influence of Michelangelo. Curated by Bernard Barryte, the Cantor's Curator of European Art, the exhibition is organized by region, tracing the style's path from Florence, Rome and Central Italy to Venice and the rest of Europe. One section illuminates the way in which Mannerism was transformed in the Low Countries, where the Italianate artist Maarten van Heemskerck was an important innovator and where Hendrick Goltzius and his circle were responsible for the extraordinary flowering of the style in Haarlem during the last decades of the 16th century. Another portion of works illustrate Mannerism’s French variant. Known as the School of Fontainebleau, it was developed by Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio, Italian artists imported by King François I to decorate his palace at Fontainebleau in the most opulent and fashionable style.
The exhibition concludes with works that demonstrate the shift away from the artifice of the Mannerist aesthetic. Included are prints by Annibale Carracci, pioneer of a new naturalism that was influenced in part by the impetus of the Counter-Reformation and the dictates of the Council of Trent, which encouraged artists to create clearer and more emotionally engaging images to counteract the impact of Protestantism and win new converts.
Throughout the exhibition, visitors can enjoy the accomplishments of the print designers Raphael, Giulio Romano and Maarten van Heemskerck — as well as the virtuosity of printmakers Marcantonio Raimondi, Ugo da Carpi, Giorgio Ghisi, Cornelis Cort and Hendrick Goltzius. Some images may be familiar, but many rare works by artists of less renown are also on view.
Long has spent his life collecting art. He first focused on the Symbolists and Surrealists, both of whom had found inspiration in Mannerism. Following the symbolist and surrealist artists’ gaze back to 16th-century Mannerism, Long acquired several exemplary prints and in 2003 began collaborating with Barryte. The goal was to create a comprehensive collection focused on Mannerist prints that would stimulate ongoing research. Representing 15 years of attentive effort, the collection now numbers more than 700 sheets and is among the most extensive repositories of this material in private hands. The sampling of the works featured in Myth, Allegory and Faith is representative of the collection, illustrating in graphic form the sources, evolution and diffusion of what art historian John Shearman called "the stylish style."
Jan Harmensz Muller (the Netherlands, 1571-1628) after Bartholomaeus Spranger (Netherlands, 1546-1611), Minerva and Mercury Arming Perseus 1604; ; Photo: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
Mannerism, the style dominant throughout Europe from about 1520 to 1590, followed the High Renaissance and then led into the Baroque. Mannerists broke with the naturalistic idealism of the High Renaissance, rejecting the imitation of nature in favor of subjective imagination and the aesthetic values of the artist. Mannerist art — painting and sculpture as well as prints — typically shares characteristics that include elongated figures in graceful, complex and stylized poses; complex compositions, often with multiple figures; a stress on contour; ornamental embellishments; and high finish. Pressure from the Catholic church at the end of the century lead to new styles of representation and the Baroque period. The Long collection represents the range of 16th-century styles, with an emphasis on Mannerism.
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