Pictures within Pictures

The Artist and the Public over Five Centuries of Graphic Art from Burgkmair to P

1 December 2005 - 1 January 2006

The subject of the works represented to the audience is art itself. The exhibition includes 170 works from the 16th to the 20th century divided into six thematic sections.

On hearing the expression 'pictures within pictures,' the title of this exhibition, most people might think of an artist standing before an easel and looking at his model he is depicting. Indeed, the most usual forms of this type are portraits of artists, self-portraits and studio depictions. Besides these, however, at this thematic exhibition numerous lesser-known themes assignable to this group are shown, as well as works whose iconography is peculiar.

The exhibition's six thematic sections follow the narrative from outlining shadows to the display of works of art, selected primarily from the museum's extremely rich collection of prints and drawings. Some of them are displayed for the first time, and what make the exhibition even more exciting are loans from private collectors as well as from the collection of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
The first grouping in the exhibition consists of works of graphic art recording anecdotes from the Antiquity that are connected with art, primarily works made on the basis of descriptions given by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. In this book, one can read about the Corinthian potter's daughter as well as the famous painters of ancient times, Apelles and Zeuxis. Salvator Rosa represented Apelles on a magnificent etching in 1662: this painter was famous of silencing even Alexander the Great when it came to artistic questions.

In the Antiquity, Minerva was considered as the main patron of Art; we can observe her in numerous prints protecting Art from lurking enemies, such as Ignorance and Envy.
This latter type of representation takes us to the next theme, which surveys allegories of art. The allegories vary from simple personifications of the Art of Painting to visual expressions of complex theoretical questions, such as in Pietro Testa's etching, the Allegory of Painting completed in 1638.

The third thematic section, through the representations of Saint Luke painting the Virgin, relates to the ideology of Christianity. Luke was considered as the patron saint of painting from the Middle Ages, because, so tells the legend, he painted the first Madonna icon. Saint Luke was generally depicted in a studio environment in front of an easel, and this scene was enriched with numerous realistic, genre-like elements.

Workshop and academy representations, which record the acquisition of artistic mastery, form a separate section. By the end of the 16th century, workshop practices, which originated in the former guilds, were replaced by academic education which emphasized theoretical knowledge. The prints reflect how significant it became to study ancient statues during this era.

The most varied thematic group is made up of portraits of artists. Here we find primarily portraits in which the artist depicts himself at work, or showing a finished work he considers important. A diverging aspect of the theme, that of the artist and the model is represented, among others, by Rembrandt and Picasso.

The last thematic part of the exhibition deals with the lot of the picture once it has left the studio, the relation between art and the public. The practice of selling pictures in the street can be seen in Italian drawings and prints from the 17th century. The engraved version of Watteau's last painting, Gersaint's shopsign, allows us a glance into the world of the art mercenary of the 18th century. Especially important regarding the history of the Museum is the series of aquarelles by Gyula Háry that documents the arrangement of paintings of the Esterházy Collection in the Gallery of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 1865 and 1904, before the building of our museum was completed. The exhibition includes a rich selection of litographies by Honoré Daumier who was famous for his humorous representations of the difficulties in the perception of art.

Curator of the exhibition: Zsuzsa Gonda