Monday, November 22, 2010

Man, Myth and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart's Renaissance

I recently caught the Gossart exhibition, "Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures", at the Met, NYC. It was really exciting to see the evolution of an artist! I think the exhibition  was pretty comprehensive as it not only followed Gossart’s development as an artist, but  also placed him in the broader artistic scene of the time.

In the early part of his career, his style was no different from other Antwerp based Mannerist painters! His work at this juncture shows the same devotion to line, bold colors and overcrowded compositions! Fastidious rendering of architectural details and improbable relationship between these structures and the human figures were completely mannerist in style. He fit in perfectly with the artistic environment at this point in his career. In many of the paintings at the show, the architectural details are obsessive! In one "Madonna and Child" triptych the background was so crammed, it takes away from the central theme of the painting! Not to mention the garish colors!

As the exhibition  moves on to the next phase of his career, the shift in his style is palpable.Even though his paintings still remained somewhat mannerist, there was a marked move towards a more natural style! It seemed to me there was  some hesitancy to his approach at this juncture but  no doubt  he was moving away from his earlier style! In  a painting of the holy family (sorry about lack of pictures, everything everywhere is copyrighted) we can discern overlap of styles! While the background has the same crowded and detailed look as his earlier paintings, the holy family seems to be painted in a more naturalist way! The form seems fuller and the acid colors of mannerism seemed to have softened! I really did not understand why Joseph was rendered as an ugly old man, whereas Mary and Jesus were painted to look like royalty! But that is another topic all together!

His trip to Italy with Phillip of Burgundy at this point, leads to more acute change in his style! He copied sculptures tirelessly and the drawings show his endeavor towards a natural rendering of the human form! The drawings of Cain and Able and those of Adam and Eve are beautifully rendered with fluid gestures but with attention to anatomy! No more strangely dragged out and distorted anatomy that was still part of  Northern Art! A Durer Adam and Eve etching was nearby to show the divergent style! I absolutely loved his sculptural rendering of a sorrowful Jesus! The controposto of the seated Jesus was actually  copy of the  torso of the Apollo Belvedere but the expression on face of Christ is so human, it almost brings tear in one’s eyes! Gossart has finally come to his own! He is made the cut into that elusive definition of a “Master”. His humanity and technique has molded together to make great art!

The exhibition  next moves onto his commercial portraits..... They are done superbly with flawless technique of course! But to me the high point of the exhibition  was the Sorrowful Jesus, where, I think the Gossart , who changed the Netherlandic painting to its later form, came into being!

"Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart's Renaissance" ran at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 17, 2010. 

I have included a conservation Clip at the bottom from You tube, Really interesting !

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