Arts exhibit review

New exhibitions of prints and drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts

Mannersim, Art Nouveau, and Rembrandt

6079 mfa
Delftsche Slaolie (Delft Salad Oil) by Johannes Theodorus Toorop (Dutch, 1894), included in the Art Nouveau exhibit.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Prints and drawings are two of my favorite art media. Something about them is deceptively simple — they comprise only a few dollars’ worth of graphite and paper, yet a priceless amount of artistic talent. For anyone who feels the same, or just wants to get out of the heat for an afternoon, three interesting new exhibits await you at the MFA.

Each exhibit features prints and drawings from very different artistic movements. The first, “Elegant Contortions: Renaissance Prints” (July 9, 2013 – March 30, 2014), features examples from the Mannerist movement (approximately 1520-1620) that immediately followed the High Renaissance. Whereas High Renaissance art is very much serene, balanced, and in proportion (think Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel), Mannerist art features compositional tension and instability, elongated proportions, and exaggerated gracefulness (think El Greco or Parmigianio’s Madonna with the Long Neck). It was in some ways a rebellion, or reaction to, the harmonious compositions of the High Renaissance. This exhibit includes 50 works, featuring Italian printmakers such as Giorgio Ghist, artists from the French and Italian schools of Fontainebleau, and Dutch engravers such as Hendrik Goltzius, and the ultimate Mannerist printmaker, Jacques Bellange of Lorraine.

The second new exhibit, “Holland on Paper: The Age of Art Nouveau” (August 10, 2013 – February 23, 2014), features works from the 1890s through the turn of the century from the Art Nouveau movement in Europe. The movement was inspired by curves in nature, especially flowers and plants. Dutch artists were especially prolific during this period, and the new exhibit includes a variety of their works, including posters, calendars, illustrated books, prints and drawings.

The third new exhibit, “Rembrandt the Etcher: The Dialogue of Darkness and Light” (August 10, 2013 – February 17, 2014), showcases 65 of Rembrandt’s etchings from the 17th century, mostly from the MFA’s collection. Rembrandt’s etchings were some of the first to exploit the effects of different papers (he was the first Western artist to use Japanese paper) and to use various inkings on the same plate. Some are highly polished sketches, while others are rougher. He covers a wide variety of subject matter, including biblical narratives, as well as self-portraits (it’s Rembrandt after all, this is to be expected), landscapes, nudes and everyday scenes. Even in his etchings, Rembrandt’s extraordinary talent for creating and juxtaposing light from darkness is apparent.

Take advantage of your free access to the museum (with MIT ID) before the semester gets hectic!