Monday, February 22, 2016

Georges de La Tour at the Prado

On 23 February, the Museo del Prado will be opening the exhibition Georges de La Tour. (1593-1652,) on display in Room C of its Jerónimos Building. The exhibition will allow visitors to discover La Tour’s artistic personality, expressed through both his realist treatment of humble figures and his refined religious scenes. A century after the rediscovery of the artist with the publication of the art historian Hermann Voss’s article in the German publication Archiv für Kunstgeschichte, the Museo del Prado has brought together thirty-one of the forty known works by this painter from Lorraine.

It seems impossible to realize that de la Tour had to wait until 1915 to be rediscovered. via a handful of scholarly articles. He's still not well known so this exhibit at the Prado (no images via the web) will be a treasure trove for those lucky enough to see it.

St. Jerome

No body has ever painted candlelight in such a way - the flame lighting only certainly portions of the face or body while leaving the rest of the canvas in magical darkness.
"In St Jerome Reading the light steals over the saint's shoulder from the left and travels through the letter in his hand. What he is reading we too can just about make out through this backlit page, repeatedly folded and unfolded, a marvelous patchwork of light and shadow. It could be such an ordinary moment, an old man squinting at his mail, but de La Tour makes it intensely enigmatic: the light threads through the eyeglass in Jerome's hand, magnifying a few hairs of his beard, the red of the cassock sends a reflective glow through the letter, and the letter becomes nearly transparent in this sacramental light. " (Guardian, July 2007).

"Little is known of Georges de La Tour's life. By 1620 he was established at the prosperous town of Lunéville, where he specialized in religious and genre scenes. His primary patrons seem to have been Lunéville's bourgeoisie and the duchy's administration at nearby Nancy. In 1639 he gained the title of peintre du roi (Painter to the King) and was wealthy enough to arouse jealousy among his fellow townsmen. La Tour's early mode typifies the Mannerist style of Nancy. By the 1620s, however, he had come into contact with the art of Caravaggio, probably through prints or paintings by northern artists such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrick ter Brugghen. Lit by crisp daylight, La Tour's works from this period are characterized by their still atmosphere and meticulous rendering of ornament and textures.

Increasingly, La Tour was drawn to candlelight scenes in which a single flame created an atmosphere of otherworldly calm. He gradually simplified forms until, in his late works, all masses were reduced to simple, almost geometrical, shapes. After his death, La Tour passed into virtual oblivion for almost three centuries. In 1915 a German scholar recognized La Tour's style in several pictures that had been variously ascribed to Spanish, Dutch, and other French artists."

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