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Friday, July 24, 2015

Last chance to see 600 years of metalpoint at the National Gallery of Art

Otto Dix (1891-1969), Old Woman, 1932, metalpoint (probably silverpoint) and graphite (?) on white prepared paper. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Art aficionados will want to be sure and see 100 distinctive metalpoint works at the National Gallery of Art before the show closes Sunday en route for London.

The "first comprehensive exhibition" of metalpoint, Drawing in Silver and Gold:  Leonardo to Jasper Johns, is laid out in chronological order beginning with art from the 14th century. Included are five works by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and some by contemporary artists like Jasper Johns (b. 1930) and Susan Schwalb (b. 1940).
Hans Holbein the Elder (1465 -1524), Portrait of a Woman, c. 1508, silverpoint. National Gallery of Art, Woodner Collection.  The catalogue says Holbein knew this woman well, and drew her more than once.

A metalpoint artist uses a sharp pointed tool with metal on the end to make gold or silver point drawings of fine detail on specially treated paper, parchment, or wood.  The "carvings" cannot be erased. 

When he traveled to the Netherlands in 1520-1521, Albrecht Durer  (1471-1528) drew impressions of his trip in silverpoint sketchbooks.
Attributed to Jacquemart de Hesdin and others (active, 1384- after 1413), Sketchbook Formed of Six Panels of Prepared Boxwood, open to Women and Wild Men, c. 1390-1400.  Model book with drawings in metalpoint (probably silverpoint). The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, and one of the earliest pieces in the show which does not travel to London.

The technique almost died out near the end of the 16th century in Europe, but fascination in the 1890s with all things 15th century art revived it. Victorian artists and members of the public (including the Princess of Wales) bought kits and studied instruction they found in magazines.

The British Museum, owner of half the pieces in the exhibition, was the destination of many Victorian artists who visited that museum to see some of the very silverpoint examples now hanging at the National Gallery of Art.
Master of the Housebook (active, 1470-1500), Standing Lovers, c. 1485, metalpoint (probably silverpoint). Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett.  The catalogue says the artist, who may have worked in Frankfurt, was an anonymous contemporary of Hans Holbein the Elder. Unfortunately, the photographer (me) cut off his unusual footwear which is shown in the original at the show.  Where is his hand and what is he holding?
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Mont Sainte Victoire, 1927, metalpoint (probably silverpoint) on commercially prepared paper.
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The catalogue says Hartley's landscapes "were executed while he was living abroad [Paris], following in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne." 

In the present exhibition are five works by "one of the most prolific metalpoint artists of all time," Hans Holbein the Elder, three by Raphael, three by William Holman Hunt, two by Rembrandt van Rijn, five by Jacques de Gheyn II, two by Pisanello, two by Gerard David, and many more.
Joseph Stella (1877-1946), Self-Portrait, c. 1925, metalpoint (probably silverpoint) and graphite on white prepared paper. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), A Bust of a Warrior, c. 1475/1480, silverpoint on cream prepared paper, on loan from The British Museum, London. The introduction to the catalogue calls this work "one of the most widely admired drawings in the history of art."
Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863-1937), Eight Studies of a Dead Mouse, 1896, silverpoint on white commercially prepared paper, on loan from The British Museum, London.  It is an example of the detail and refinement of the Aesthetic Movement. "Several of the whiskers are drawn in with a needle," according to the catalogue.

The National Gallery of Art organized Drawing in Silver and Gold in collaboration with The British Museum.

Lenders to the exhibition are museums and private collectors from around the world, including the Louvre and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A color catalog of more than 300 pages is available in the shops, and a video in the exhibition demonstrates the methodology and tools.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden.   

What:  Drawing in Silver and Gold:  Leonardo to Jasper Johns

When: Now through Sunday, July 26, 2015, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday.

Where: Ground Floor, West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.  (Closest exhibition entrance is on Seventh Street.)

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215 

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