An Italian Panorama: The Romance of Ruins

November 10, 2009—May 16, 2010

European Works on Paper

Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P13

Admission is free.

The current selection of prints and drawings is mostly by Italian artists of the 16th to 18th centuries.

Italy, then as now, was the chief tourist center of Europe, especially since the cost of living there was then low compared to countries north of the Alps. Views of Venice and Rome were in particular demand. Venice, picturesquely surrounded by water, is one of the most luminously beautiful cities anywhere.

Rome enjoyed immense prestige as the former capital of the Roman Empire. Considered the foundation of modern civilization, its ruins and antiquities were especially favored by artists.

Artists from Northern countries were attracted by the sunny charm of the Roman countryside, so different from the gloomier weather back home. Religious or mythological subjects often had landscape backgrounds, where the artist felt free to resort to fantasy and dramatic effects.

Some of the nicest landscape drawings were made from life out of doors, not as studies for paintings but as independent works of art, which could be sold at modest, and hence more affordable, prices.

Image: Hermann van Swanevelt, Dutch, 1600-1655. View of the Tiber, ca. 1630-1640. Pen and brown ink with brown wash. Bequest of Milton McGreevy, 81-30/83.

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