Saturday, 27 November 2010

France 1500 - From Middle Ages to Renaissance

Master of Moulins (Jean Hey), Annunciation
Art Institute of Chicago
France 1500 - from Middle Ages to Renaissance
Grand Palais National Galleries, Paris
6th October 2010 - 10th January 2011
Art Institute of Chicago
26th February - 29th May 2011

This exhibition explores an unprecedented but still often misunderstood period of artistic encounters and creative ferment in France. It is the first major event devoted to the pivotal period spanned by the reigns of Charles VIII (1483-1498) and Louis XII (1498-1515), and dominated by the personality of Anne de Bretagne, wife successively of these two kings. A period of economic recovery, population growth, territorial ambitions in the famous Italian wars, cultural development under the banner of humanism, and above all expansion and contrasts in the artistic field. Nevertheless, this period is often overlooked, to the point where most books on European art of the period barely mention France if at all.

Thanks to over 200 masterworks and in the light of recent studies, this exhibition provides a clearer picture of this period when France was at the crossroads of many developments, while examining the notions of tradition and development, continuity and rupture. The works of the greatest painters of the period are the subject of several outstanding groupings, such as paintings by the Master of Moulins, aka Jean Hey, the most famous 'French' painter of the period, thanks to prestigious loans from Chicago, Munich, Brussels, Paris and Autun. Remarkable sculptures and stained glass from all over France, tapestries lent by public and private collections in Europe and the United States, and rare silverware complete the panorama. The art of the book, whether manuscript or printed, occupies a major place in the artistic production of the time and is represented in this exhibition by some of its greatest masterpieces, thanks to generous loans from the National Library of France, which possesses a collection of unique richness for this period.

The exhibition is divided into three areas, allowing a closer examination of artistic creation in this period in its different facets:

Our Lady of Grace
Musée Augustin, Toulouse
The sources of creation: artists and clients
This first section shows how the encounter between art lovers and artists was a source of creativity. France from 1483-1515 is distinguished by the quantity and diversity of the artistic fruits of these encounters, at a time when the capital city was not the only cultural capital, but where, instead, a creative explosion occured throughout the country. Without wishing to present an exhaustive tour de France, the exhibition highlights a few significant centres such as the Loire Valley, where the sovereigns lived, Bourbonnais, enriched by great princes, Normandy, Champagne, Languedoc, ... where individual and collective commissions generate artistic creation.

The image in all its forms
While the recent invention of printing enabled the diffusion of images and decorative motifs on a hitherto unprecedented scale, artists expressed their creativity in recent and new media like the book and the printed image but also the medal and painted enamel. Versatile artists worked with manuscripts and printed books, while the same models used to illustrate books were used to provide cartoons for stained glass windows or tapestries. Innovation is not necessarily found where we would expect it: Gothic ornament, at the time described as 'modern', and that resulting from the models of Roman antiquity, described as 'antique', were both successful and sometimes coexist in surprising ways.

Leonardo da Vinci, La belle Ferronière
Musée du Louvre, Paris
North-South Exchanges
The final part of the exhibition, designed as its culmination, demonstrates the encounters between men, works and forms, some with local roots, others from north or south. Artists settle in France or work there temporarily; works are imported, witness to the vitality of certain objects (eg Antwerp altarpieces), but also to the interests of French collectors. Combinations and comparisons are spectacular, like that of the four panels of the Master of Saint Gilles, divided between London and Washington. Some special loans from the Louvre and the Art Institute of Chicago remind us that the king of France and his entourage had, before 1515, acquired works by painters like Andrea Solari, Baccio della Porta (Fra Bartolomeo) and Leonardo da Vinci.

Committee of Curators
Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye, Director of the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages
Genevieve Bresc-Bautier, Director of the Department of Sculpture at the Louvre
Thierry Crepin-Leblond, Director of the National Museum of the Renaissance, Château d'Ecouen
Martha Wolff, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1750, Eleanor Wood Prince Collection, Art Institute of Chicago.

Presentation of the exhibition by Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye (in French)

Official audio visual guide to the exhibition

Behind the scenes at the exhibition

Stained glass windows at the exhibition

No comments:

Post a Comment