Barocci @ National Gallery

An exhibition celebrating the seldom talked about Barocci at the National Gallery. Only two works by the Italian renaissance artist permanently reside in Britain, only one of which is a painting, the other being a drawing at the Ashmolean. Yet despite being relatively unknown in the UK, the National Gallery succeeds in educating us about an unknown talent whom will sure have gained a strong following succeeding this exhibition.

Barocci mainly painted altarpieces which are still in situe which may be why he is not so well known to us, however, the artist was praised by Michelangelo and fellow artists were jealous of him because of this. A contemporary of El Greco, Barocci bridges the gap between mannerism and the baroque. He was painting 50 years after Raphael and also comes from Urbino. This may explain his patronage from Francesco Maria II Della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino whose hometown is shown in the artist’s depiction of the annunciation through a window. At one point Barocci was so popular that this painting was even seized by Napolean.

Famed as a colourist, Barocci’s paintings are full of colour and rosy cheeked figures. Most of the paintings on display are religious however their is one mythological subject in the portrayal of Anaes Fleeing Troy. We are also shown portraits of his patron as well as a self portrait where he has portrayed himself as looking rather stern and perhaps a little unwell.

Where the exhibition really excels is in its presentation of Barocci’s preparatory sketches. For nearly every image we can see just how the artist worked to perfect his figures and there is knowledge of the production of over 1500 drawings. The artist also had access to the drawings of Michelangelo whose influence is easily apparent. Very often male life drawings finish as females which is interesting. Also on display are prints and engravings on taffeta as an affirmation of the artist’s popularity during his own life time.

It is unclear why Barocci is not so well known today. It is evident that the artist enjoyed much success throughout his career and the National Gallery justly brings him into light again. This wonderful display should certainly not be missed.

Barocci: Brilliance and Grace is on display at the National Portrait Gallery until 19 May

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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