Museum  February 12, 2020

Artists on the Move: Journeys and Drawings

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Edward Lear (British, 1812 - 1888), Petra, April 14, 1858, 1858. Pen and brown ink with watercolor and gouache.

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents Artists on the Move: Journeys and Drawings, examining the travels of European artists from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, on view at the Getty Center March 10-May 31, 2020.

In an age before mass travel, European artists from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries were surprisingly peripatetic. They left their homes behind for a number of reasons: to hone their skills, to secure employment, to flee persecution and hardship, or to satisfy their curiosity. Whether it was a short journey or a long one, a temporary visit or a permanent relocation, artists’ mobility had a considerable impact not only on their practice but also on their understanding of the world.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Federico Zuccaro (Italian, about 1541 - 1609), Taddeo Leaving Home Escorted by Two Guardian Angels, about 1595. Pen and brown ink, brush with brown wash, over black chalk and touches of red chalk.

Since the tools were portable and the process itself was relatively quick, drawing came to be a preferred means of itinerant artists to record their observations. Artists favored dry media, such as chalk, metalpoint, and pencil, because they were portable and required minimal preparation. Sketchbooks protected sheets from creasing while also serving as hard surfaces to work on.

Featuring works from the museum’s permanent collection and from the Getty Research Institute, Artists on the Move: Journeys and Drawings looks at the travels of artists as they became exposed to different artistic traditions and new knowledge, while at the same time disseminating their own knowledge and traditions wherever they went. For instance, the red-and-black-chalk The Toilette of Venus by Swiss Joseph Heintz the Elder (1564-1609) attests to the artist’s absorption of sixteenth-century Italian conventions. With her elegantly curved body shown from the back, Heintz’s Venus simultaneously recalls the female figures of Raphael and those of Correggio, while the combined use chalk was typical of Roman draftsmanship during his visit in 1594. Struck by the strangeness and beauty of the ancient city of Petra–its sandstone ruins against the morning sky–the polymath Edward Lear (1812-1888) sketched the amphitheatre and its surroundings in haste before having to flee the site.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732 - 1806), Ruins of an Imperial Palace, Rome, 1759. Red chalk.

Through a selection of drawings, the exhibition also addresses some of the motives that prompted artists to embark on often arduous and dangerous journeys. A poignant example is Federico Zuccaro’s drawing from his renowned series recounting the artistic education of his brother Taddeo. It shows the young boy bidding farewell to the family as he leaves for Rome which, at the time, functioned as an important artistic center. The body language and facial expressions of Taddeo and his family members betray a range of emotions associated with travel: anxiety, excitement, sadness, and hope. 

“This carefully selected group of drawings reflects on the experiences of migrant artists,” says Edina Adam, assistant curator in the Department of Drawings. “It explores not only how mobility impacted their practices but also how these itinerant masters contributed to the artistic milieus of their adoptive homes.”

Artists on the Move: Journeys and Drawings will be on view February 11 through May 3, 2020 at the Getty Center Museum.

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