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Federico Barocci’s La Madonna del Gatto (The Madonna of the Cat), c. 1575-1576; oil on canvas. The painting can be viewed at the Saint Louis Art Museum’s current exhibit: “Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master,” open through Jan. 20. The painting is on loan to the Saint Louis Art Museum from the National Gallery in London. (click for larger version)
November 07, 2012The Saint Louis Art Museum's newest exhibition, "Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master," tells the story of a major painter who is relatively unknown to American audiences.
From Barocci's self-portrait to his painting, "Immaculate Conception," the collection of intricate and moving paintings grace the museum's galleries alongside his exquisite preparatory sketches and prints.
The exhibit, which opened Oct. 21 and continues through Jan. 20, 2013, comprises more than 130 of the artist's works. This comprehensive exhibition includes many works of art never before seen in this country, representing the many facets of Barocci's work.
"I don't think we've seen anything like this in St. Louis before," said Chris Naffziger, research assistant at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Naffziger said the last time such a collection of Barocci's work was displayed was about 40 years ago in Italy.
Barocci (ca. 1533-1612) was a master Renaissance painter and draftsman. His hometown, the highly cultured town of Urbino in northeastern Italy, was also the birthplace of the renown painter Raphael.
Self portrait of Federico Barocci, c. 1595-1600. Oil on paper mounted on canvas. (click for larger version)
Barocci was one of the most innovative Italian artists of the second half of the 16th century with large-scale works commissioned by Popes Pius I and Clement VIII. He was highly sought after by both religious and secular patrons. Drawing from a wide range of late Renaissance masters — including Correggio, Jacopo Tintoretto and Titian — Barocci developed his characteristic style by combining extraordinary color with his knowledge of the human form.
A pioneer in the use of pastels and oils as media for preparatory studies, Barocci was recognized as a master painter in the Renaissance period. In addition to painting spiritual works which served as the altarpieces in smaller rural churches and in some of the most important churches in Rome, Barocci's innovations in composition and his careful study of nature heavily influenced the Baroque.
Barocci's preparatory drawings show visitors what a hard working and careful painter he was, according to Naffziger.
Federico Barocci’s “Study for the Head of the Christ Child for the Nativity,” chalk with pastel on blue paper. (click for larger version)
"The majority of artists did preparatory drawings, but his are much more beautiful. They became valued as works of art in their own right," he said.
Barocci's works are in museums like The National Gallery in London and the Louvre, but in America he is relatively unknown. Naffziger cited a couple of factors for this anonymity in the U.S.
"Barocci worked in the small town of Urbino and a lot of his more famous works are still in the churches they were intended for – 450 years later," Naffziger said.
Federico Barocci’s “Nativity,” 1597, oil on canvas. Photo courtesy The Bridgeman Art Library. (click for larger version)
He said Barocci's paintings are often viewed as too religious by some art historians, and lack strong stories such as those offered by artists like Caravaggio.
Judith W. Mann, curator of European art to 1800 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, believes otherwise. She and Babette Bohn, professor of art history at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, collaborated to bring this exhibit to fruition.
Mann first came across Barocci's work while writing her dissertation on Guido Reni, a 17th-century painter influenced by Barocci.
"I really fell in love with the artist, however, when I saw his painting, 'Rest on the Return from Egypt' – one of the works that is in the exhibition – after it was cleaned in the early 1990s," Mann said.
Federico Barocci’s “Portrait of Francesco Maria II della Rovere,” c. 1571-72; oil on canvas. (click for larger version)
For the past nine years, Mann and Bohn have worked to see that others are exposed to the beauty of Barocci's works.
Out of about 1,500 of the prolific artist's drawings in existence, the two traveled all over Europe and the U.S. to view 80 to 90 percent of them, Naffziger said.
"The works came from churches, museums and private collectors. Every single work is a loan. We borrowed from over 40 lenders," he said.
After St. Louis the exhibit heads to the National Gallery in London.
Tickets to the exhibition are $10 for adults; $8 for students and seniors; $6 for children 6 to 12; free for children under 6; free to museum members; and free to all on Fridays. Advance tickets are recommended and are available at MetroTix locations ($2.75 service fee). Charge by phone at 534-1111 or online at metrotix.com.
Tickets are also available at the museum. For group rates or more information, call 655-5298.
The Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Monday, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.