CLEVELAND (October 6, 2022)—With subjects from hell scenes to popular proverbs, the range of engaging themes showcased in the newest exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel, will entrance visitors. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, organized in cooperation with the ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna, introduces audiences to the immense diversity of works made during the rapid urbanization and mercantile expansion of the Northern Renaissance, exploring issues that remain relevant today, such as religious conflict and freedom and the ethics and excesses of wealth. The exhibition features a variety of imaginative sketches, preparatory works and finished drawings made with precise pen and ink, vibrant watercolor and layered chalk techniques.
On view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery through January 8, 2023, Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel contains rarely seen drawings from the ALBERTINA Museum in Vienna, one of Europe’s oldest and finest collections. The selection of 101 drawings is combined with choice examples from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s holdings.
Stars of the exhibition include Hieronymus Bosch’s The Tree Man, one of the most idiosyncratic drawings of the era, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s (Desidia) Sloth, a reflection on contemporary civic morality. Among several designs for majestic stained glass windows is a pair of rare cartoons (full-scale drawings), each measuring over seven feet tall, by Antwerp artist Jan de Beer. Other notable works—seldom seen outside Europe—include two grand portrait drawings in colored chalks by Hendrick Goltzius and a sophisticated “penwork” (a drawing that imitates engraving) by his stepson, Jacob Matham.
“Incorporating various functions and relationships to other media and projects, the drawings provide fascinating insight into the Netherlandish city as a place of artistic collaboration,” said Emily J. Peters, CMA curator of prints and drawings. “Drawing became the bridge between collaborating artists who designed compositions for paintings, prints, stained glass, tapestries and civic festivals in the 16th century. With the emergence of the middle class as patrons of art, urban artists adapted how, what and for whom they created art to new circumstances.”
The Protestant Reformation, widescale urbanization, expanding international trade and the start of the Eighty Years’ War transformed daily life in the 1500s in the Netherlands. Artists adapted by reorienting traditional images to align with urban secular experience, religiosity and morals—using drawing as an important tool—as can be seen throughout Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel.
The exhibition is arranged to highlight the importance of the Netherlands’ merchant cities to the expansion of artistic practice. Drawings that predate the 16th century set the stage for the innovations that follow. Five sections in the exhibition explore the use of city scenes as the backdrop for biblical stories, the portrayal of urban inhabitants, the showcasing of urban morality and politics through proverbs and allegories and the emergence of real city views.
“Respected globally for our rich permanent collection, the CMA often works with other renowned museums, such as the ALBERTINA Museum, to share resources and offer national and international audiences access to noteworthy works of art,” said William Griswold, CMA director and president. “This was one such collaboration. In 2019, CMA generously loaned two Monet paintings to the ALBERTINA Museum for a special exhibition. In return, they have allowed us the honor to showcase these remarkable Northern Renaissance drawings.”
With its total of 1.2 million works of art, the ALBERTINA houses one of the world’s largest art collections including 65,000 drawings and over one million prints. The museum covers a period of art history of more than six centuries, from the 15th century to modern and contemporary times.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue presenting entries on each of the drawings, featuring new research and several essays by leading scholars. Complementary programming and weekly tours will also be available.
The exhibition catalogue, Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel is written and edited by Emily J. Peters, curator of prints and drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Laura Ritter, curator at the ALBERTINA Museum, with contributions from Koenraad Jonckheere, professor of Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art at Ghent University; Stephanie Porras, professor and chair of Art History at Tulane University in New Orleans; and Annemarie Stefes, an independent scholar in Bremen. Four essays and more than seventy catalogue entries by the exhibition’s curators and eight contributing scholars comprise the catalogue. Thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated, this volume represents a major contribution to the study and appreciation of Northern Renaissance art in the Low Countries and of drawing as an art form.
Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel is published by the Cleveland Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. It is available for purchase online or at the CMA store for $65.
Docent tours will be available on Tuesdays and Sundays at 1:15 pm, starting Sunday, October 16.
ArtLens App Exhibition Guide
Use ArtLens App to get the most out of the exhibition. Listen to the Tales of the City audio tour with Emily J. Peters, curator of prints, for insights into the moralizing, narrative and often comical and bizarre subject matter of selected drawings in the exhibition. Discover in-depth information for all objects on view and use the “favoriting” feature to keep track of artworks you like. ArtLens App is your guide to the museum while visiting the galleries or while preparing for your visit. Learn more and download the app at cma.org/app.
Symposium: Tales of the City
Thursday, November 3, 2022, 6 p.m.
Stijn Alsteens, International Head, Department of Old Master Drawings, Christie’s
Stijn Alsteens will offer a historical perspective on the market for Old Master drawings, focusing on Netherlandish drawings.
Symposium: Tales of the City
Friday, November 4, 2022, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
John C. and Sally S. Morley Family Foundation Lecture Hall
FREE; ticket required
Hear from 12 scholars of Northern Renaissance art on topics ranging from drawing materials and stained glass window designs to 16th-century theories of images and artistic collaboration in Netherlandish cities. This program is free and open to the public. Generous support of the exhibition symposium is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation.
Artist in the Atrium: Community Collaged City
Saturday, December 17, 2022, 12–4 p.m.
Ames Family Atrium
The exhibition Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel shows cities as places of artistic collaboration. Artist Matthew Kolodziej invites visitors to collaborate on the creation of a reimagined cityscape. Draw or photograph your favorite details from images of cityscapes found across the museum (including in Tales of the City) and add them to the expanding collage.
Gallery Talks: Tales of the City
Emily J. Peters, Curator of Prints and Drawings
Saturday, December 17, 2022, 12 and 2 p.m.
The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery
Join exhibition curator Emily J. Peters for gallery talks in Tales of the City at noon and 2 p.m.
This program is supported as part of the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.
Generous support is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation. Additional support is provided by Randall J. and Virginia N. Barbato.
All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank in memory of Patricia Snyder. Major annual support is provided by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, Dick Blum (deceased) and Harriet Warm, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Sam J. Frankino Foundation, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Carl T. Jagatich, Cathy Lincoln, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, Carl and Lu Anne Morrison, Henry Ott-Hansen, Michael and Cindy Resch, Margaret and Loyal Wilson and Claudia C. Woods and David A. Osage.
The exhibition catalogue for Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel was produced with the generous support of the Tavolozza Foundation.
Generous support of the exhibition symposium is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The CDC updated its guidelines regarding the need to wear face coverings in public settings for protection against COVID-19. Visitors may choose to wear a mask at any time. Masks may be required by local or state authorities based on the COVID-19 community levels in Cuyahoga County.
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