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Ashmolean opens Guercino. A Passion for Drawing – The Collections of Sir Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum presents Guercino. A Passion for Drawing – The Collections of Sir Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum, an exhibition on view 11th February 2012 to 15th April 2012.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri An angel in flight, c.1648. Red chalk, 27.3 x 26.8 cm. LI032.31© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

An adventurous and brilliant draughtsman, Guercino (1591–1666) was one of the great Italian Baroque artists. He drew constantly, with a passion that revealed itself in the vigour and intensity of his preparatory studies. He explored, in drawings, different possibilities for literary and religious subjects, landscapes, and scenes of everyday life – which stand alone as independent works of art.

Born in Cento, near Ferrara, Guercino received his nickname, ‘squinter’, as a boy and spent much of his career in his home town. As a young painter, he was inspired by the art of the Carracci in nearby Bologna, particularly their dramatic use of light and shade and the tender naturalism of their style. Following a period spent in Rome in 1621–3, Guercino became interested in a more classical, restrained style of painting, but his preparatory drawings continued to reveal an experimental and energetic approach. We find him dashing down rapid ideas which often went through radical changes before he was satisfied with a composition.Other sheets show delicate explorations of figures, gestures and expressions as he developed his designs in luminous pen, ink and wash studies or in sensuous chalk drawings.

The core of the display comes from the collection of Sir Denis Mahon CH, CBE, FBA (1910–2011). An internationally renowned art historian, connoisseur and collector of Italian Baroque art, Sir Denis was also a tireless campaigner for the arts in the UK – free admission to museums being amongst the causes he championed. His ground-breaking research on neglected Baroque artists in the 1930s and 1940s went hand in hand with buying paintings and drawings by the same unfashionable artists. His drawings by Guercino came on loan to the Museum in 1984 and twelve paintings from his magnificent collection have been on loan at the Ashmolean since 1997.

Guercino: A Passion For Drawing celebrates both the work of a powerful and individual artist and the work of a great collector. Sir Denis Mahon’s expert eye and generosity, encapsulated in this display, gives audiences the chance to see and understand works from one of the greatest periods in European art history.

Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont St

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