THIS AUTUMN, TWO EXTRAORDINARY MASTER PAINTERS FROM THE PAST WILL TAKE CENTRE STAGE AT THE ALBERTINA. RAPHAEL IS THE UNIVERSAL GENIUS OF THE LATE RENAISSANCE AND, THEREFORE, IS INDUBITABLY ONE OF THE MOST WELL-KNOWN AND IMPORTANT ARTISTS IN THE WORLD. AT THE SAME TIME, THE EXHIBITION WILL ALSO PROVIDE EXTENSIVE SPACE FOR THE WORKS OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DUTCH DRAWER OF THE 16TH CENTURY: PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER, WHO REFLECTED LIKE NO OTHER ARTIST SOCIETY’S BEHAVIOUR WITH A SHARP AND CRITICAL EYE.
Raphael, together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, represents the main triptych of the Renaissance. However, compared with the other two master geniuses, the common human traits of his figures, their character, emotions, and the reasons behind their behaviour are expressed in a more universal manner. His creations are bursting with emotions and possess a radiance that penetrates well into the room where, for the first time ever, they roam freely and under nobody’s compulsion other than their own. Even though he precisely observed his figures, and studied models before taking to the canvas, he idealised them, thus making them resonate on a universal level. His figures, through their actions, step into a wickerwork of relationships where opposite feelings and tensions slip into the light, and rise to the surface in a show of beautiful compositional unity. Raphael is a master of beauty and harmony: his works are steeped in those qualities, harbouring a promising message that resonates now more than ever.
The monographic exhibition gives us a unique overview over his entire oeuvre, with a good 130 drawing and 20 paintings: from the early embryonal stage to his Florentine residence and activity in Rome. It’s here that Raphael became one of the most coveted artists, receiving commissions from Popes and the most important secular and religious patrons. Raphael’s burgeoning creativity is best appreciated in his drawings, so much so that visitors will be forgiven for thinking they’re looking over the artist’s shoulder as he spontaneously draws on paper. His drawings serve a specific purpose, as can be seen in the individual preparatory sketches, his eye always on the final execution of a masterpiece. One of the exhibition’s special role is to highlight Raphael’s systematic and processual development stages. It focuses on a first sketch analysing individual figures and groups, moving to the proof, the resulting model or naked studies, and finishes with the final model and cardboard figure. When analysing his paintings, viewers can experience the artist’s creative thought from the very first idea to the completed masterpiece.
Raphael and Pieter Bruegel the Elder represent two completely different pictorial worlds, and the Albertina will be showcasing both from autumn 2017. The two contemporary exhibitions offer us the opportunity of catching a glimpse into the life, society, and works of the artists.
Bruegel’s drawings were particularly well regarded during his time and are coveted collector items – many have been widely circulated as models for copperplate engravings. On the eve of the Dutch War of Independence, in an era underscored by political, social, and religious upheaval, Bruegel devised a just as complex pictorial world. His works stand out for an incredible interest in the life of his contemporaries, depicting their whole world on paper: farmers working the fields, picturesque landscapes and mountain summits, intimate valley rills as well as scathing criticism levelled at society and the morals of the time together with the representation of absurd and comically grotesque figures. Witty and clever, the artist thematises the constant conflict between idealism and reality. In his famous The Painter and The Buyer, Bruegel turns art production itself into the subject: he contrasts the serious, intellectual work of the painter with the puzzled expression of an alleged art expert, swiftly reaching for his money pouch.
With around 100 works sourced from the Albertina and other international collections, the exhibition presents Bruegel’s whole range of drawings and etchings, highlighting his artistic background by contrast with top-notch works by important predecessors the likes of Bosch and Dürer. Countless works were found on the back of years of research at the Albertina and, now restored, will be shown for the very first time in history. The Albertina offers viewers the possibility of comparing Raphael’s aesthetic world with the untiring realism of a moralist Bruegel. Two opposite worlds meet.