September 19, 2006 – January 14, 2007
The first major U.S. exhibition of paintings by one of the principal figures of late-16th-century painting, Luca Cambiaso, is the first major international traveling exhibition hosted by the Blanton since the museum’s opening in April. The Blanton is the exclusive U.S. venue for Luca Cambiaso, 1527-1585, providing a rare opportunity for the public to see first-hand over 120 works by a fascinating artist whose work has largely remained in his native Genoa. The range of works featured spans his entire development, showing the influence of Raphael and Michelangelo in his early years, the highly sophisticated and stylized Mannerism of his mature work, and the hints of early Baroque style that penetrate his later period. While drawings are displayed throughout the exhibition—including several of the startlingly modern, almost cubistic works which emerged in his later years—one section of the exhibition focuses on Cambiaso’s influence as a draughtsman. The final section of the exhibition is dedicated to the work of Cambiaso’s principal Genoese followers, demonstrating the artist’s immediate influence and explaining the foundation of a distinctive school.
Commentary by Jonathan Bober
Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings
In a century of genius, Luca Cambiaso stands out as an extraordinary figure. His origins in a small town east of Genoa and lack of formal training instilled unusual ambition and self-discipline. He excelled at every kind of painting, from monumental frescoes of mythological subject to intimate devotional works. His style was a complicated synthesis of the most advanced currents in Italian art: the ideal form of Michelangelo and Raphael; the intellectual rigor of mannerist architecture and theory; and the naturalism of Correggio and the great Venetian painters. Throughout, this synthesis was grounded by an instinct for visual structure and a systematic approach to representation. In his drawings from the outset, and in his later paintings, these tendencies expressed themselves in an extraordinary stylization and abstractness. Cambiaso is regularly cited as the first great native painter of the school of Genoa. His influence upon the region’s next generation and his role in establishing traditions there are inestimable. Cambiaso’s significance, however, transcends his period and school.
This is the first comprehensive presentation of Cambiaso’s work in 50 years, and the first of its kind ever in this country. That it has not occurred sooner is due to the rarity of Cambiaso’s paintings outside Genoa; his success, which led to innumerable replicas and copies; and, whatever its beauty, the intellectuality—simply, the difficulty—of his style. The exhibition occurs now at the Blanton because of its acquisition of the Suida-Manning Collection in 1998. William Suida and his daughter, Bertina Suida Manning, published the only detailed study of Cambiaso’s work in 1958. In researching that study, they assembled the most important group of Cambiaso’s works—seven paintings and nearly fifty drawings—outside of Genoa. Today, that collection is the core of the museum’s holdings of old master paintings and drawings.