March 10, 2011

Exhibition Highlights the Getty's Newly Expanded Collection of Germanic Drawings and Explores the Medium as an Essential Expression of an Age of Transformation

Brings together over 40 drawings, predominantly recent acquisitions, including two major works by Gustav Klimt

Spirit of an Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770—1900

At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
March 29—June 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES—In the past few years, the Getty Museum has focused on building its holdings of German and Austrian drawings from the 18th through the early 20th centuries thanks to important acquisitions and gifts, which will be unveiled for the first time. Spirit of An Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770—1900, on view March 29 through June 19, 2011 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, brings together more than 40 works from the Museum’s superlative drawings collection which highlight this new area of collecting and celebrate an era when drawing was an essential expression of the age.

The exhibition highlights a period when the Germanic world underwent profound intellectual, social, economic, and political changes. Events such as the publications of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the Industrial Revolution, the formal unification of Germany into a nation state, and the invention of psychoanalysis shaped modern life and its representations. In the early 1800s, the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831) professed that art was a fundamental mode of consciousness whereby humans could reach a profound understanding both of themselves and the world. Art, therefore, reflected the spirit of the age in which it was created; this influential notion held sway over the 19th century. In fact, drawing—along with music—became an essential expression of the period; it achieved an elevated status among the visual arts, sustained by the rise of art academies, which particularly emphasized draftsmanship as part of artistic training and practice. This exhibition will explore manifold aspects of the period through two thematic groupings.

Views of Italy and the Homeland

Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Vienna were the most vibrant cultural centers of the Germanic world, each with a lively artistic tradition and a strong identity. But none could claim to be either dominant or nationally representative—as did Paris and London in their respective lands. Rome, however, was the only city that came close to being a leading center for German artists. Indeed, many of them traveled to the Italian peninsula, including Goethe, lured by the remains of classical antiquity and the picturesque scenery of the countryside.

A selection of drawings will illustrate not only a wide range of topographies from Italy, Germany, and Austria, but also different approaches to landscape: from the tightly controlled Neoclassicism of Jakob Philip Hackert to the sensitive naturalism of Thomas Ender and the emotionally charged Romanticism of Carl Blechen.

Highlights from this section of the exhibition include:

Carl Rottmann
The Ruins of the Imperial Palaces in Rome, about 1831
This vibrant sheet is preparatory for a fresco of the same subject that Rottmann executed for King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868) as part of a cycle of 28 wall paintings of famous Italian views. These decorated an arcade at Munich’s Hofgarten (Garden Court), where they were meant to evoke a journey through Italy. As often with Rottmann’s watercolors, a significant part of the image remains unfinished, which reveals his pencil underdrawing technique.

Christian Gottlieb Hammer
View of Dresden, 1810
With its grand scale and astonishing detail, this colorful panorama renders the unique atmosphere of Dresden, the traditional capital of Saxony (eastern Germany) and a major artistic center. A native of the city, Hammer specialized in such exacting yet picturesque city views for which there was much demand at the time. Here he focused on Dresden’s historic center (destroyed during World War II) and its elegant skyline—including splendid Baroque buildings—seen from the verdant banks of the Elbe River, where figures go about their daily activities.

Thomas Ender
View of the Residence of Archduke Johann in Gastein Hot Springs, about 1829—32
Painter to Archduke Johann (1782-1859)—brother of the Austrian emperor—Ender was commissioned to execute watercolors of the spectacular topography of the Austrian Alps. In this view of a mountain resort near Salzburg, the artist demonstrated a command of spatial expanse combined with effects of meticulous diminution. He delicately rendered the sublime geological elements of the Alpine landscape. With radiant images such as this one, Ender played a significant role in creating a sense of Austrian cultural identity in the decades following the formal dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

Myths, History, and Daily Life

In the 1800s art academies assumed prominence in Germany and Austria for the training of young artists. The strict academic regimen, which focused on the study of the human figure, however did not allow artists to express much of their individual temperaments. As a result, some of the most talented reacted against it, preferring to venture into new aesthetic directions. Figural subjects of myth, history, or daily life nevertheless retained their appeal. Drawings associated with two important anti-academic movements will be highlighted and juxtaposed in this portion of the exhibition.

One movement is known as the Nazarenes, a group established in 1809 as a breakaway from the Vienna Academy. Its members soon moved to Rome, where they shared a communal life in search of artistic renewal and spiritual purity—hence, their interest in religious subjects. Stylistically, the Nazarenes favored an uncompromising linearity, best exemplified here by the work of Julius Schnorr von Carosfeld. At first assembled around Friedrich Overbeck, their artistic and spiritual leader, the Nazarenes ultimately influenced an enormous number of German artists well into the second half of the century.

The Viennese Secession was formed in 1897 by 19 artists, including Gustav Klimt, who served as its first president. Rejecting conservative attitudes toward the arts, the Secession searched for new forms of expression that would be in keeping with modern life.

Highlights include:

Wilhelm von Schadow
Joseph Wintergerst in a Floor-length Coat, about 1811—13
The Nazarenes spurned the use of professional models, which they believed to be corrupted by academic conventions, so they often posed for each other. An early member of the confraternity, Joseph Wintergerst (17831867) is shown here wearing the coat they used for their drawing sessions. Von Schadow combined a detailed drapery study with a highly personal likeness. There is a spiritual intensity about the figure, almost entirely covered by the heavy coat, save for his expressive young face, with its focused eyes and tousled hair.

Carl Barth
Portrait of Peder Hjort, about 1818—19
Barth was a draftsman and engraver associated with the Nazarenes. While in Rome, he made this intimate likeness to commemorate his friendship with the influential writer and art critic Peder Hjort (Danish, 17931871), with whom he shared aesthetic ideals. Using silvery strokes of graphite, the artist rendered the sitter’s eyes, hair, and features in microscopic detail, best appreciated with a magnifying glass. The drawings fine, classical frame dates from the period.

Gustav Klimt
Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining, 1897—98
In this sensitive portrait, a young woman—her face haloed by a cloud of hair—reclines on a chaise longue and gazes languidly at the viewer. In contrast to the high degree of finish in his rendering of the head, Klimt treated the sitter’s clothing and the back of the chair in a looser, more summary manner, highlighting the emotional connection between sitter and artist. The young woman bears a noticeable resemblance to Sonja Knips, a Viennese socialite whose portrait Klimt painted during the same period. Whether or not the sitter is actually Knips, the erotic connection between the sitter and the artist is palpable and marks the moment when Klimt invented the erotic dream-state style for which he is revered.

František Kupka
Girl Shading Her Eyes, about 1908
First trained in Prague under a late Nazarene painter, Kupka continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Finally he moved to Paris, where he became a pioneer of European abstraction. With its simple figurative subject, this vibrant pastel reflects the artist’s experiments with optical phenomena—especially the chromatic effects of shade. The blues, violets, and greens radiate with vital energy; they seem liberated from the traditionally descriptive function of imitation, owing to the artist’s ambition to transform nature into an alternate reality.

Spirit of an Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770—1900 will go on view March 29 through June 19, 2011 in the West Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, and is curated by Edouard Kopp, assistant curator of drawings.

Note to editors: Images available on request.

Image at top: "Portrait of Peder Hjort," about 1818—1819. Carl Barth (German, 1787-1853). Pencil on wove paper. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications
(310) 440-7607

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