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

Islam and the Classical Heritage
August 25, 2018 – January 27, 2019

From the legendary life and exploits of Alexander the Great (known as Iskandar in the Islamic tradition) to the insights of Islamic mathematicians who first introduced the concept of algebra (al-jabr), this exhibition brings a larger awareness of how authors, philosophers, and scientists of the Islamic world spread and transformed classical knowledge through the medium of illustrated manuscripts. Representing heroes such as Alexander and other historic notables, including Aristotle and Ptolemy, the exhibition features works created in Iran, India, Turkey, Spain, and Italy from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The manuscripts in this exhibition are drawn from the National Library of Israel's special collection.
Image: “Alexander studying with Nichomachus and Aristotle”, folio 12, verso, in Khamsa (Quintet) (detail), by Nizami Ganjavi (1141‒1209). India, 17th century, illustrations possibly later. Copyist unknown; text in Persian. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; 36 x 25.1 x 3.3 cm. From the collections of The National Library of Israel, Ms. Yah. Ar. 1021. Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the National Library of Israel.

Lead Support
The Francis Goldsmith Exhibition Fund

Major Support
Barbro and Bernard Osher

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.

The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine
Through April 7, 2019
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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