From Michelangelo to Mapplethorpe Review - Northwestern University’s Block Museum Winter 2009

Pictures from "Around the Block", collage of similar shapes

The current exhibit at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, "The current exhibitions at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Polaroids: Mapplethorpe and From Michelangelo toAnnibale Carraci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado, which runs through April 5, 2009, seems an unlikely pairing until you see it.  Around the Block,  Activities of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, says this exhibit bring together “Literal, figural, subjective, and conceptual relationships between the works of art in the two seemingly unrelated exhibitions…are worthy of reflection and comparison.  They tell of enduring interests in the human condition as well as artistic continuity.”

"Around the Block" collage similar shapes, Mapplethorpe and Michelangelo

A visit to the two exhibits running concurrently begs for “compare and contrast”.  The common themes are that of the human body and where it is in time and space expressed through the technical media available.

"Untitled (Patti Smith) 1973/75 Polaroid

The Alsdorf Gallery is showing, Polaroids: Mapplethorpe, photos taken between 1970 and 1973. The photos are “in your face”, predating and anticipating the subjects and themes of his mature work.  In these works there is a spontaneity and immediacy reflective of instant photography.  It is fascinating to see the seeds of his later works displayed simply and in one room.

Mapplethorpe, "Untitled" 1973 Polaroid (flowers)

In the Main Gallery, there is a very important and to me, surprising show, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado.  This is the first time this collection of 70 original drawings that focus on the period from 1520 to 1620 has been out of the Prado in Madrid, Spain.  Seeing this exhibit, I think,  “Last year I went to the Prado and this year the Prado came to me.”  What an opportunity for Chicagoland residents and visitors!

From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci: A Century of Italian Drawings from the Prado is also a book by Nicolas Turner, who is formerly of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Museum and is a specialist in Renaissance and Baroque drawings. Jose Manuel Matilla is Head of the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Museo del Prado and has contributed to this book. (Available at Art Services International distributed by University Press of New England)

Prado, Castello

Turners’ book was originally published in Spanish to accompany an exhibition held at the Prado in 2005. It is a lavishly illustrated catalog featuring works that have been selected to explain the intrinsic importance of the medium of drawing. Before the exhibition at the Prado, the sixteenth-century Italian works presented were mostly unknown because they had never previously been studied as a group. These works are a remarkable collection that was assembled by Pedro Fernández Durán.  This collection was built up from old European collections in the seventeenth to nineteeneth centuries. Durán donated this collection to the Prado in 1931. And now the exhibit is at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

Prado, Passerotti

The sixteenth century was a key period for the development of drawing in Europe. The wide range of drawing types, the variety of regional and individual styles, and the importance which artists gave to this medium, meant that this was an important time for the development of the technique. Painters learned that drawing was not just a practical exercise for the purposes of study but also that it allowed them great freedom in expressing their imaginations and individual artistic personalities.

Prado, Palma

Scholar Nicholas Turner's extensive research in identifying and documenting these drawings has led to the first exhibition of most of these works outside the Prado since the institution acquired them more than 75 years ago. Turner's work also revealed two of the drawings as Michelangelo figure studies for the Sistine Chapel's Last Judgment. This exhibition was offered to the Mary and Leigh Block Musuem of Art by Art Services International, the organizaton that put together the show in collaboration the Prado and Nicholas Turner - a wonderful turn of events.

Mapplethorpe, "Untitled (self-portrait)" 1970/73, Polaroid. Gift of Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, NY to Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art

This is a wonderful opportunity, and it is free.  Come see the Block’s blockbusters.

Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art
Northwestern University
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208
[email protected]

Admission to the Block Museum is free. Donations are accepted.

Monday    Closed
Tuesday    10 AM - 5 PM
Wednesday    10 AM - 8 PM
Thursday    10 AM - 8 PM
Friday    10 AM - 8 PM
Saturday    12 PM - 5 PM
Sunday    12 PM - 5 PM
Directions and Parking Information

The Museum is located on the southeastern portion of Northwestern University's Evanston campus, near the lake and just off Sheridan Road, which hugs the main body of the campus.

Photos: Courtesy of Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art

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