Exhibition Location: Galleries for Drawings, Prints, and Photographs, 2nd floor
Dürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400-1700 presents a selection of 100 works from the Museum’s outstanding holdings of German, Swiss, Austrian, and early Bohemian drawings. Works by later 16th– and 17th–century artists are balanced by a group of drawings from the early 16th century, including an exceptional double-sided self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer. In addition to drawings by other major artists such as Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Altdorfer, Urs Graf, Hans Holbein the Elder, Joseph Heintz the Elder, Wenzel Hollar, and Joachim von Sandrart the Elder, the exhibition highlights works by lesser-known, but equally fascinating, draftsmen of the 15th to 17th century. The selection of drawings in the exhibition is enhanced by comparative material, including prints, illustrated books, paintings, glass roundels, and decorative objects also from the Museum’s collection, as well as by loans from the Pierpont Morgan Library and private collections.
Albrecht Dürer’s extraordinary standing as the dominant figure in German art should not lead to the conclusion that he was one of only a very small group of gifted artists. Dürer and Beyond brings together varied works of high quality by Dürer and his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors in order to present a more balanced overview of drawings made by artists active before 1700 in the Holy Roman Empire—the loosely knit state corresponding roughly with present-day Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
Dürer and Beyond is the first exhibition to offer an extensive overview of the Metropolitan Museum’s holdings of Central European drawings, most of which were acquired over the past two decades. Presented chronologically and grouped by city, school, and theme, the selection begins with two beautiful examples of Bohemian draftsmanship, followed by the earlier, more well-known, artists of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, with exceptional examples by Schongauer, Dürer, and Hans Baldung, which entered the Museum as part of the Robert Lehman Collection in 1975. These are supplemented by works by later 16th– and 17th–century artists, like Jost Amman and Friedrich Sustris, whose names may not be as well known to the American public but whose works are equally compelling in terms of style and subject matter.
Highlights of the exhibition include Albrecht Dürer’s iconic Self-portrait and Studies of the Artist’s Hand and a Pillow (1493), a loose collection of careful studies of the young artist’s own face, right hand, and a pillow (recto), with six pillow studies revealing Dürer’s delight in the folds and play of light (verso); Albrecht Altdorfer’s Samson and Delilah (1506), among the first drawings purchased by the Metropolitan Museum (in 1906) and a prime example of the Danube School of artists, who focused on the local landscape as the subject of their works of art; a remarkable drawing by Urs Graf, himself a mercenary, of The Standard Bearer of the Banner of the Canton Glarus (1521), a striking image of a fashionably dressed soldier, a common theme during the early 16th century; and Nymphs and Satyrs in a Landscape (1599 or before), a recently discovered drawing by Joseph Heintz the Elder, one of the central artists at the imperial court of Rudolf II in Prague.
The exhibition is organized by Curator Stijn Alsteens and Assistant Curator Freyda Spira, both of the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints.
Dürer and Beyond: Central European Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400-1700 is accompanied by a richly illustrated, scholarly catalogue written by Stijn Alsteens and Freyda Spira, with contributions by Maryan W. Ainsworth, Dirk W. Breiding, George R. Goldner, Guido Messling, Marjorie Shelley, and Joshua P. Waterman. It is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, and is available in the Museum’s book shops (hardcover, $65).
A variety of education programs accompany the exhibition, including gallery talks, a gallery workshop for adults, and a Drop-In Drawing workshop for all ages, as well as a Sunday at the Met program on April 22 featuring talks by Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann and Maryan Ainsworth, exploring how American collections of Central European drawings were assembled, and the role of drawing in the creative processes of Albrecht Dürer and his contemporaries.
In conjunction with the exhibition Dürer and Beyond, a related installation of prints, drawings, illustrated manuscripts, woodcuts, and engravings from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection is on display in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery through May 27, 2012.
The exhibition will be featured on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.
April 2, 2012