Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers Invites a Close Reading of Two Venetian Masters

June 28, 2011

New Brunswick, NJ – This fall, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers evokes the brio at the heart of 18th-century Venetian art by presenting a selection of rarely seen etchings by two of the artistic masters who made the “Serenissima” of their time an artistic capital: Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1697-1768) and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804).

Pairing Canaletto’s only major printmaking endeavor—a series of landscape views—with etchings of expressive heads by Domenico Tiepolo, Two Venetian Masters: Canaletto and Domenico Tiepolo Etchings from the Arthur Ross Foundation draws largely from the collection of the Arthur Ross Foundation, New York.  The exhibition opens Tuesday, September 6, 2011 and remains on view through January 8, 2012.

Two Venetian Masters marks the Zimmerli’s second partnership with the Arthur Ross Foundation, following the first, three years ago, which focused on the prints of Francisco Goya.  As before, we are marshalling Rutgers’ unique academic strengths to encourage fresh new readings of Venetian prints by students, scholars, and the general public,” says Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli.

Christine Giviskos, the organizer of the exhibition and Associate Curator of European Art at the Zimmerli, comments, “Printmaking played an important but different role in each of these artists’ careers.”  For Canaletto, who was already a sought-after painter when he decided to take up etching in his forties, the resurgence of printmaking in Venice inspired him to recharge as an artist, by working in a new medium and with different landscape subjects. For Tiepolo, the son of the great history painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, producing masterful prints helped him to distinguish his own unique talents while promoting the achievements of his famous artistic clan.

Giviskos continues, “These two remarkable artists were especially skilled at creating details with contrasts of light and dark using different etching techniques.”

The 31 Canaletto etchings featured in the exhibition show the artist bringing a new immediacy to the views of Venice for which he was renowned.  In these prints he summoned up Venice’s golden light and bright blue waters in black and white, using a range of tones and quick, confident linear strokes.  This freshness is also seen in his romantic, even fantastical, views of ancient monuments, and in depictions of the rugged Italian countryside. One of the latter, View of a Town on a Riverbank (1744), is a magisterial work that was doubtless inspired by a view during the artist’s travels along the Brenta River between Venice and Padua.  Canaletto here provides a different kind of panoramic view from his painted landscapes, depicting men gathering by the river, trees raking the sky, and a rickety wooden footbridge spanning a gully thick with growth, all in harmony with the flowing lines of river and bank and the scumbled hatch marks of tousled leaves and glimmering light.    

"Canaletto’s masterful treatment of light and water stands out in this series, entitled Vedute Alter Prese Da I Luohgi Alter Ideate (Views, Some Representing Actual Sites, Others Imaginary), now considered a landmark in the history of printmaking for its fine technique and virtuoso handling of light and atmosphere,” says Giviskos.

Domenico Tiepolo’s etchings depicting expressive male heads  (from the series Raccolta di Teste, “Collection of Heads,” 1774) draw upon a well-established category of art that was particularly prominent in 18th-century Venice. Likely, the artist saw them as an opportunity to showcase and broadcast his technical virtuosity and artistic creativity.  Each portrait demonstrates Tiepolo’s attention to pose, costume and physiognomy, as well as his wide-ranging use of etching techniques.  In one, Old Man with a Beard, (circa 1770), the artist uses curved lines to create the subject’s furrowed forehead and brow as he gazes down through heavy eyelids and thick skin; he contrasts light and dark by means of long lines and crosshatches to create the man’s thick collared robe, while evenly stippling a flat background. 

Two Venetian Masters also features examples of Tiepolo’s etchings of religious subjects imagined by himself and his father.  The Patron Saints of the Crotta Family, 1750, based on a painting by his father, depicts Saint Grata presenting the head of Saint Alexander to her pagan father, who had ordered Alexander's execution. Flowers sprout from the saint's severed neck.  Flight into Egypt (1753) depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ child proceeding away from the viewer on horseback, their heads encircled with a glowing light, being led by Joseph, who gazes back over his shoulder, a profile of his weathered face revealed to the onlooker. 

Two Venetian Masters: Canaletto and Domenico Tiepolo Etchings from the Arthur Ross Foundation and related programs are made possible by the Arthur Ross Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the IFPDA Foundation, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and donors to the Zimmerli’s Annual Exhibition Fund.

The late businessman and philanthropist Arthur Ross began to build his Foundation’s print collection in 1978 with the acquisition of Goya's celebrated Caprichos.  In the 1980s, the Foundation began to develop strength in Italian 18th-century prints.  Upon viewing the milestone Domenico Tiepolo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1997, Mr. Ross was inspired to collect expressive portrayals from the Raccolta di Teste series.  Over the years, the Arthur Ross Foundation has partnered with universities and university galleries around the country to help further the knowledge and enjoyment of art through the loan of 18th and 19th-century European prints from its collection.

Public Programs

Art After Hours: First Wednesdays

Wednesday, September 7/ 5-9pm

To celebrate the opening of Two Venetian Masters and to offer a broader view of Venice, actors and actresses from Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts will perform scenes from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” An exhibition tour with the curator will be offered at 5:30pm. Live music and refreshments will be available on the terrace.

Venetian Hours: A Day of Art and Music

Sunday, October 30/ 2-5pm

Spend an unforgettable day in Venice at the Zimmerli Art Museum! In conjunction with the museum’s special exhibition, Venetian Masters: Canaletto and Domenico Tiepolo Etchings from the Arthur Ross Foundation, the museum will offer a unique afternoon of enrichment. At 2 pm, attend a lecture on Venetian art by renowned scholar William Barcham, who is Professor of Art History at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a world authority on the art of Venice.  At 3 pm, enjoy a concert of music inspired by Venetian themes and performed by the legendary pianist Juana Zayas. Ms. Zayas, whom the New York Times described as an extraordinary pianist, and whom the International Piano Quarterly ranked above Cortot and Ashkenazy, will include works by Scarlatti, Chopin, and Schumann in her program. The afternoon will end with a lovely reception and an opportunity to visit this ravishing exhibition.

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, founded in 1966, is one of the largest university art museums in United States. The Zimmerli’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the 19th century, Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art, and American and European works on paper, including prints, rare books, drawings, photographs, and original illustrations for children’s books.

The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick.

Location and Hours

The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at the corner of George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month September through July, 10 am to 9 pm. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65, and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu



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