The summer rotation in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery focuses on a selection of drawings and prints from southern Europe and Mexico and covers over 450 years of art in different media.
The earliest works on view are drawings by two great artists of the Italian Renaissance: Filippino Lippi (Italian, ca. 1457–1504) and Vittore Carpaccio (Italian, 1460/66?–1525/26). They were close contemporaries and represent the two major artistic centers of fifteenth-century Italy: Florence and Venice, respectively. Filippino Lippi, the illegitimate son of the great painter Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, ca. 1406–1469), was a brilliant muralist and easel-painter active in Florence and Rome. Filippino's virtuosity as a draftsman is especially evident in his quick expressive sketches and meditated life studies in the difficult technique of metalpoint; many of his highly inventive compositions were also recorded by engravers of his time, as seen in the present selection. Carpaccio was a prolific draftsman, unlike most Venetian Renaissance artists of his generation, and used drawings for a variety of purposes. Some of his drawings in the Museum's collection can be firmly connected to extant paintings by him, and others served as models for consultation in the workshop.
The rotation also features several new acquisitions of the Department of Drawings and Prints. A rare, circular architectural print by the French Renaissance artist Hugues Sambin (French, ca. 1520–1601) forms the central focus of a selection of works on paper exploring the interest in Classical architecture in France during the sixteenth century. The monumental circular drawing of Venus at the Forge of Vulcan of the early eighteenth century is one of Sebastiano Conca's most accomplished extant works, and it is shown here with a group of exuberant compositional studies and figural drawings by Italian Baroque painters. On display nearby is the French nineteenth-century design for a mural by the artist Paul Chenavard (French, 1808–1895). This heretofore unidentified project represents the so-called Gigantomachy, or the battle of the Olympian Gods against the Giants, and is paired with other drawings and prints showing scenes of divine omnipotence.
A separate group of drawings and prints focuses on Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). Picasso was a prolific printmaker who throughout his long career explored different printmaking techniques. His subjects embody a perpetual conversation, both between his own works and those of his predecessors and colleagues. In this selection from the Museum's collection, six works from his oeuvre are contrasted with prints and drawings by other artists. The comparisons highlight his connection to artistic traditions as well as his own very distinct contributions to art history.
In part contemporary to Picasso's work, a large section of the rotation is dedicated to twentieth-century Mexican prints. Emerging from the political climate of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), the spirited prints and posters address political themes inspired by the unstable climate of the first half of the twentieth century, whereas others celebrate Mexican traditions and culture such as José Guadalupe Posada's skeletons relating to the Day of the Dead.