Building the Picture
April 30 through September 2014
At the end of April, the National Gallery will present a new exhibit spotlighting the handling of architecture in various paintings by prominent Italian renaissance artists. Building The Picture will feature works by Duccio, Botticelli, Crivelli and others chosen from the museum’s permanent collection along with paintings gathered from other institutions in the U.K. These 14th, 15th, and 16th century images will be complemented by a series of five films that offer contemporary ideas on the theme of real and imagined architecture from Peter Zumthor, filmmaker Martha Fiennes, art historian T. J. Clark, film historian John David Rhodes, and computer game cinematic director Peter Gornstein.
Domenico Beccafumi 1484 – 1551, The Story of Papirius, mid 1520s. (Courtesy National Gallery, London) Antonello da Messina active 1456; died 1479, Saint Jerome in his Study, about 1475. (Courtesy National Gallery, London)
The Renaissance bore witness to several breakthroughs in terms of realistic representation, particularly in the realm of architecture. Techniques like perspective enabled artists to depict increasingly life-like architectural compositions. Such skills were used towards the rendering of real structures or the creation of imagined and compelling architectural scenes that still maintained believable spatial qualities.
Despite these developments, the period was still largely lacking in the concept of an architectural education, meaning that prominent figures like Brunelleschi and Michelangelo trained in other artistic fields before venturing into building design.
Exhibit curators see a contemporary resurgence in these blurred boundaries between art and architecture, a fluidity that is reinforced by the diverse roster of figures contributing to the show’s film program.
Within Renaissance Art History, architectural compositions traditionally receive second billing to the human figures that populate them. Building the Picture hopes to show how in many cases, buildings acted as foundations for the resultant paintings, dictating the layout and direction of the remainder of the work.
The exhibit opens in London on April 30. It will be accompanied by an online catalog permanently available on the National Gallery website.