Legion of Honor Legion of Honor
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
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Museum image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Legion of Honor
100 34th Avenue (at Clement Street)
San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.750.3600

Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters
June 30, 2018 – September 30, 2018

In 1848—a year of political revolution across Europe—seven young Englishmen formed an artistic alliance aspiring to rebel against the contemporary Victorian art world. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, defied idealized figures popularized by Raphael and other High Renaissance artists to reflect the simplicity, spirituality, and beauty they found in late medieval and early Renaissance art. Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters is the first major exhibition to juxtapose examples by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with works that inspired its members, including Italian old masters Fra Angelico and Pietro Perugino and their Northern contemporaries Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling. It reveals how the Brotherhood’s aesthetic evolved over time to embrace artistic influences from the High and late Renaissance, such as Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, and Veronese. It also offers a rich multimedia opportunity to examine the artists’ attraction to stained glass, domestic decorations, and sixteenth-century textiles.

Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters is the first major international loan exhibition to assemble works of art by members of England’s nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with the early Italian, Netherlandish, and German art that inspired them. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, this presentation will demonstrate the Pre-Raphaelites’ fascination with the Italian old masters, including Fra Angelico (ca. 1400–1455) and Pietro Perugino (ca. 1450­–1523), and their northern contemporaries such as Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390–1441) and Hans Memling (1430/1440–1494). Truth and Beauty will trace the Brotherhood through the nineteenth-century “rediscovery” of Sandro Botticelli (1444 or 1445–1510) by the English art critics John Ruskin (1819–1900) and Walter Pater (1839–1894), which paralleled the tempera-paint revival executed by the second-generation Pre-Raphaelites. The visual affinities between these works will create evocative juxtapositions that will also demonstrate the influence of High Renaissance painter Raphael (1483–1520) and artists of the late Renaissance, such as Titian (ca. 1488–1576) and Paolo Veronese (1528–1588), on the Pre-Raphaelites and select contemporaries.

Their attraction to the art of the past was not limited to paintings, however, and the presentation will also feature stained glass and tapestries in emulation of Flemish and French textiles. The varied sources that informed the Pre-Raphaelite’s aesthetic vocabulary in dialogue with their own nineteenth-century creations will demonstrate the importance of the work that inspired the PRB and redefine more broadly the PRB’s style. These arrangements will highlight the nuanced paradoxes of the Pre-Raphaelite mission, namely, their efforts to be fundamentally modern by emulating the past, as well as their dichotomous criticism and veneration of Raphael and his artistic impact.

Pre-Raphael: The Inspiration of Early Italian and Early Netherlandish Art
The jewel-toned color palette of the Pre-Raphaelites emulated that of early Netherlandish artists, including Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390–1441) and Hans Memling (1430/1440–1494), whose panels Rossetti and Holman Hunt admired in Bruges on an 1849 “Pre-Raphaelite pilgrimage.” As students training at the Royal Academy, they also could study works from the national collection, which was housed in the same building. There they would have known a rare example from the early Flemish school on public view in London at that time, Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434, National Gallery, London).

The Rediscovery of Botticelli and the Tempera Revival
Pre-Raphaelite artists, including Holman Hunt, Millais, and second-generation Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898), all traveled to Italy. Burne-Jones, known as the “English Quattrocentist,” made four visits and filled his sketchbooks with depictions of the works that impressed him, especially in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. During his second trip, in 1862, he traveled with Ruskin, who, along with Pater, is credited with the “rediscovery” of Botticelli in the nineteenth century. On his third visit, in 1873, Burne-Jones spent time with the English artist John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829–1908), who owned a villa in the hills outside of Florence. Stanhope’s own works—including his masterpiece, Love and the Maiden (1877, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)—reflect access to Botticelli’s paintings in the Uffizi Gallery. Such unmediated observations revealed subtleties that reproductions of the paintings of the time could not supply, and encouraged attempts by the Pre-Raphaelites to recover old master painting techniques.

The Influence of Raphael and the “Post-Raphaelites”
Although the Pre-Raphaelites’ initial style ostensibly rejected the idealized aesthetics of Raphael, his followers, and the Baroque artists, these parameters fluctuated over the course of each artist’s career. Paradoxically, the Pre-Raphaelites’ “Immortals” list also included Raphael himself along with select “Post-Raphaelites” such as Veronese and Tintoretto (1560–1635). Examples from Rossetti’s mature period are perhaps the most evocative examples of this development, and in paintings such as Monna Vanna (1866, Tate, London) and Veronica Veronese (1872, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington), the artist overtly emulated Raphael and Veronese, respectively. Given Rossetti’s early proclamations of disdain for the “Post-Raphaelite” aesthetic, these sumptuous paintings reveal a surprising shift in his appreciation for the Italian Renaissance, particularly sixteenth-century Venetian paintings.

Decorative Arts: Tapestries, Stained Glass, and Ecclesiastic Decorations
First- and second-generation Pre-Raphaelites collected works by the old masters and filled their homes with harmonious decorative arts. They lived among these objects and also designed “medievalized” merchandise, including lush tapestries with figures and flora that quote from Flemish and French precedents. This final section of the exhibition will suggest compelling connections between sixteenth-century and nineteenth-century textiles, punctuated by complementary stained glass and decorations, together creating a rich multimedia experience in Rosekrans Court.

Julian Schnabel: Symbols of Actual Life
Through August 5, 2018

Since 1977, Julian Schnabel (b. 1951) has captured people’s imagination with paintings that speak to his incessant appetite for sculptural physicality, material diversity, and pictorial symbolism, resulting in ever more audaciously scaled paintings that oscillate between abstraction and figuration. This exhibition features a new body of work created for the Legion’s Court of Honor. At twenty-four by twenty-four feet, the paintings are both monumental in scale and ephemeral in nature. Exposed to the elements over the four-month run of the exhibition, they aren’t meant to last. The artist has said they “epitomize much of what are the essential characteristics of the smallest and most nascent proposals of how imagery drawing and material could be called a painting.” In addition, Schnabel is also showing eleven paintings from three distinct bodies of work, including a new series of abstractions on Mexican sack linen as well as examples from the Goat Paintings (begun in 2012) and the Jane Birkin series (1990).

Julian Schnabel (b. 1951) studied art at the University of Houston, achieving a BFA, and participated in the independent study program at the Whitney Museum of Art. He has exhibited widely since the late 1970s. His work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; White Cube, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Tate Gallery, London; Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Recent solo exhibitions include Julian Schnabel, Schloss Derneberg Museum, Germany (2017); Julian Schnabel: Plate Paintings 1978–86, Aspen Museum of Art (2016–2017); Julian Schnabel: Every Angel Has a Dark Side, Dairy Art Centre, London (2014); and Julian Schnabel: Deus ex machina, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin (2012).

Paris 1913: "La Prose du Transsibérien" and the Flowering of the Avant Garde
Through August 12, 2018

By 1913, Paris had been for more than a decade the epicenter of artistic revolution in Europe. That year, artist Sonia Delaunay and poet Blaise Cendrars collaborated on La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France. Hailed as the first “simultaneous book,” the artwork was conceived as a unified experience of text and image, indivisible and apprehended concurrently. The emergence of an avant-garde art across all media was nowhere more in evidence than in such collaborations between poets and visual artists. This exhibition examines the artistic milieu that surrounded La Prose in the years before and after its creation, a period that set the stage for the flowering of the arts in Paris in the 1920s.

The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine
Through Aug 26, 2018
Gallery 1

Ancient Egypt meets modern medicine in this exhibition that makes use of state-of-the-art scientific techniques to explore two of the Fine Arts Museums’ mummies. An interdisciplinary team of scientists, Egyptologists, physicians, and museum curators and conservators has learned more about how these embalmed individuals lived, died, and were prepared for eternity.

Rebecca Fahrig and Kerstin Müller of Stanford University Medical School’s department of radiology have conducted high-resolution, three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) scans of the mummies, revealing long-held secrets. The resulting data have been studied by Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium, who offered much of the interpretation seen in the exhibition.

One of the mummies investigated is that of Irethorrou, a priest from an important family living in Akhmim in middle Egypt about 2,600 years ago. The Future of the Past includes information that has been gleaned about Irethorrou’s lifestyle, the society in which he lived, his religion, and the funerary beliefs of his time. The second mummy, perhaps 500 years older, is that of a woman traditionally known as “Hatason.” Neither her mummy nor her coffin has fared as well as those of Irethorrou, and they present a stark contrast to Irethorrou’s perfectly preserved body.

Visitors can examine both mummies by means of an interactive virtual dissection table supplied by Anatomage, a San Jose medical solutions company. Hauntingly beautiful amulets and tomb furnishings are also displayed.

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