Andrew Butterfield considers Paolo Veronese's The Family of Darius before Alexander (1565–1567) on view in the exhibition Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice at the National Gallery, London, on view through June 15, 2014.
Butterfield writes: "In painting, more than any other artist, Veronese knew how to glorify his patrons’ wealth, status, and erudition. The confident hedonism of the artist and his patrons may be one reason that in the modern era, Veronese has often been regarded as a gifted but superficial painter, more interested in depicting grand spaces, tumultuous crowds, and sumptuous surfaces than in capturing the heart of the historical scenes he illustrates. Thus, Roger Fry sniffed that Veronese 'doesn’t care a damn about anything but his opportunities,' and John Pope-Hennessy chided that 'analysis was alien to the cast of Veronese’s mind.' ... Yet The Family of Darius before Alexander reveals the seriousness of purpose with which Veronese worked. As few other painters of the Renaissance, he sought to make images that drew on the resources of all the arts, not just painting... Above all, [the painting] displays Veronese’s absolute command of paint and brush.”
Clark writes: "What seems to me the central feature of Veronese’s achievement – I could use many examples, but let us focus on the counterpoised bodies in Respect – is a unique completeness of empathy with the figures he paints, so that one feels him almost physically entering into them, male or female, and deploying their weight and balance as if from the inside. Even Titian cannot manage the business in quite the same way. The centre, or anchor, of Veronese’s vision was this: an internal, material, comprehensive inhabiting of bodies, and therefore an ability to depict their glittering outsides as manifestations of their weight, their mechanics: the set of their skeletons, their centres of gravity, their muscle tone. I really do not see any other painter who can do this; that is, who is able to have these facts of deep structure and self-propulsion appear wholly on the outside of things, in the fall of a drape or the lustre of a fold of fat... of course [Veronese] knows that outsides, if they are to manifest the feel of a complex, animate solid in motion, will have to be somehow supercharged, almost hypertrophied. Hence the famous gaudiness of his surfaces – the shot silk, the rippling silver stripes, the impenetrable brocade, the special acidity of his greens and yellows. His treatment of fabrics makes sense, I think, the moment one grasps it as a language – a specific high diction – in which internal mobilities and resistances are staged in two dimensions."
Spicer writes that "the importance of putting on a good show did not escape Veronese. The artist used 'spotlights' in his paintings with all the craft of a theatre director... Painted about 1565 and standing over four metres tall [The Martyrdom of Saint George's] journey to this exhibition is the first time it has left the church of San Giorgio since Napoleon took a fancy to it, spiriting it away to France in the late-18th century. In this shimmering masterpiece, the artist treats the characters in the scene like actors positioned on a stage. The protagonist’s pale chest is illuminated from above, his palms turned up in a gesture of submission; this is St George before his execution. A pale, hooded man points towards a statue of Apollo, but the saint dutifully turns skywards to the angelic figure of Faith, who, together with Hope and Charity, help make up the pastel-coloured heavenly chorus."
Salmon comments: "Veronese trains as a stonemason to start with and works with his father and then as a teenager, he becomes a painter and moves into a painter’s workshop, while his elder brother continues to be a stonemason. And if you start looking at Veronese’s work with that in mind, you realise that he does think about things in a sculptural way—I don’t think his figures are particularly sculptural in themselves, it’s just the way he thinks about them being three dimensional and how they relate to one another in a composition. Some of the early biographers mentioned the fact that he made small wax or terracotta models, like a lot of other painters [such as] El Greco did; they would then use those as models for their composition. If you look at drawings by Veronese, you get the sense that he’s thinking about how these figures sit in space, and to me that is the background of a stonemason, of a sculptor."
Landi writes that the "number of Veronese’s drawings and paintings in American collections... allowed [curator Virginia Brilliant] and her chief collaborator, Frederick Ilchman... to assemble a show that tells 'the whole story of how these masterpieces went from the artist’s very first doodles, his first ideas for a composition, and how he worked those up into very highly finished drawings' and from there to paintings." Landi also notes that "Henry James called Veronese the 'happiest painter' of the Renaissance, one who enjoyed a reputation for vivid color and the creation of a festive mood even when his subject wasn’t a celebration."
Laura Gilbert reviews the Museum of Biblical Art's Passion in Venice. Her post, entitled "Great Art in Curatorial Purgatory," deems the show a curatorial "mess," but the paintings, prints, and other works on view well worth a visit. "Although the show disappoints, the art doesn't" she writes. That's a pretty ringing endorsement.
Judith Dobrzynski reports on the Dulwich Picture Gallery's unique exhibition schedule for 2011: "one masterpiece every month of the year. It's like an unfolding calendar, it's like a year long advent calendar of your dreams." The schedule includes works by: Sir Thomas Lawrence, Velazquez, Vermeer, El Greco, Veronese, Rembrandt, Ingres, van Gogh, Gainsborough, Constable, David Hockney, and Domenichino. A year of must sees...
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.