‘In the Age of Giorgione’ Royal Academy May 2016
This exhibition focused on Venice at the beginning of the sixteenth century and the generation of artist who inhabited the city at that time. The most prominent painter was Giovanni Bellini but a new wave of artists was introducing a new era for Venetian painting. The most notable were Giorgione and Titian. The exhibition centred on the works of Giorgione and showed the influence he had on other artists at that time. Giorgione was a mysterious artist, about whom little in known and yet his legacy from his short life was profoundly felt in Venice and beyond.
The exhibition was not large and yet the carefully arranged paintings of Giorgione alongside those of his contemporaries highlighted his new, more intimate approach. There was a realism in his portraits with his subjects looking out from the canvas to the viewer. One important innovation was the inclusion of the hands of the subject along with symbolic objects, thus setting up a strong narrative element in the paintings. There was no under-drawing and so Giorgione must have painted directly onto the canvas, establishing an immediacy in the sitter’s expression. In looking at these portraits, there was a strong sense of seeing an individual who was ready to communicate.
This exhibition captured a moment in time where you see influences coming together. The rooms are packed with small masterpieces and standing in the midst of them, you felt to be looking in on that moment and catching a glimpse of how art evolves. It was fascinating for me to follow the exhibition I saw last week on ‘Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art’ with this one on Giorgione. In both I was seeing the importance of understanding what was happening around artists in order to understand their work and the work of other artists. As I said in the last review of the national Gallery exhibition, I could begin to glimpse the importance of contextualisation in an artist’s development.