ART REVIEW: "Guercino - Virtuoso Draftsman"
“Guercino: Virtuoso Draftsman” at the Morgan Library and Museum presents 35 drawings from its collection of works by the Italian Baroque artist supplemented by two works on loan from private collections.
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Il Guercino (the squinting one) because of an eye ailment, was born in Cento in the Po Valley near Bologna in 1591. Coming from a peasant family, Guercino was largely self-taught as an artist. However, his natural ability was soon recognized and he received both religious and secular commissions. His early painting style was known for its energy and use of bold colors.
In 1621, Guercino went to Rome where he worked for the newly-elected Pope Gregory XV who was Bologese. This was a very busy period during which he painted frescos, altarpieces and a portrait of the Pope.
Following Pope Gregory's death in 1623, Guercino returned to Cento and then to Bologna where he opened a studio. His painting style changed during this period, becoming more restained and with a lighter palette. Guercino continued to be a successful painter until his death in 1660.
Although Guercino earned his living as a painter, he was also known for his abilities as a draftsman. As in his paintings, Guercino's style was energetic with rapid strokes and marks used to form the figures. Often, he would use washes to develop the images that he had begun with pen and ink. Later in his career, he also made use of red chalk to develop his drawings.
The majority of Guercino's drawings were preparatory studies for paintings. As the exhibition demonstrates, Guercino used drawings to develop his ideas. When he received a commission, he would make a series of sketches. In these, he would arrange and re-arrange figures, make close-up studies of certain elements, and change the composition. Thus, viewers can see the artist's mind at work.
In addition to prepartaory studies, Guercino also did drew for his own enjoyment, creating landscapes, character studies and caricatures.
The exhibition allows viewers the opportunity to see the brilliance of this master draftsman. Although somewhat overshadowed by the superb exhibition of drawings by John Singer Sargent also at the Morgan, this exhibition should not be missed by those interested in drawing.
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Art review - Morgan Library and Museum - Guercino: Virtuoso Draftsman