Follower of Michelangelo
Anatomical studies of a right arm
(The Study on the left in pen and brown wash; that on the right in much finer pen, with grey and brown wash - Guise Bequest 1765)
16th February - 16th May 2010
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564) has been the most influential artist in Western Art. Giorgio Vasari’s famous Vitae (a compilation of artists’ biographies) culminate with the life of Michelangelo – the artist who was sent from heaven to bring perfection to the arts. His name carried the sobriquet il divino, which was not a mere eulogy, but a sign of the recognition of his supremacy in the fiercely competitive Renaissance art scene.
Michelangelo is one on the few masters whose fame and influence never waned – from his lifetime through to the present day he has been regarded as an unsurpassed creative genius. Even though he saw himself as a sculptor he excelled in all three visual art forms – as a painter, a sculptor and an architect (two of his architectural drawings will be on display in this exhibition). His artistic solutions became the norm that every artist followed and his works became embedded in the collective memory. The detail of the Sistine ceiling where the hand of God brings Adam to life has become an icon of modern culture.
Another fascination is that an artist of Michelangelo’s calibre executed all his works single-handedly with hardly any help from assistants. He gives the impression of a solitary and secretive man who kept his artistic concepts and ideas private, offering only the finished work from which his art could be studied.
His works were indeed studied, copied and imitated by young and developing as well as by already established artists. Michelangelo’s uniquely creative solutions surprised while providing a new ideal. Learning by example was the traditional way for young artists to learn their trade and a method that was very much advocated by Michelangelo himself.
This exhibition was not a study of Michelangelo’s vast influence in the arts, but rather documented it with thirty drawings from one collection - the collection of old master drawings bequeathed to Christ Church in 1765 by General John Guise. Among the works in the exhibition were drawings by artists of high reputation and skill like Raphael and Agostino Carracci who copied figures from the Sistine chapel and Tintoretto who draws after sculptures created by Michelangelo. The exhibition also included a number of lesser known or even unknown artists who looked at Michelangelo’s work and copied from it in order to learn and to accumulate a catalogue of solutions for their own future use. This practice allows us an excellent insight into artists’ education in the 16th century while enabling the public to view drawings which have never been on display before.