Light and Shade
Gian Lorenzo Bernini Kneeling Angel (detail), 1672 Terracotta Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds (1937.63). Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Bernini: Sculpting In Clay at the Kimball Art Museum
Many know him best from his iconic depiction of Apollo and Daphne. Others have been so lucky as to see his work all over modern Rome, as vital today as it was 400 years ago.
During that time, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) brought sculpture to new heights, elevating the form by infusing it with realness and life. His pieces, created over a 70-year career, still stand in today’s Rome, adorning piazzas, fountains and cathedrals. Widely considered the Michelangelo of his day, Bernini was the greatest sculptor of the 16th century and laid the groundwork for what would become the baroque movement by infusing his work with drama and naturalism.
But before Bernini took a chisel to stone, he prepared for his work through models and sketches. Fort Worth’s Kimball Museum of Art brings Bernini’s models and sketches together for Bernini: Sculpting in Clay, open until April 14. Both scholars and lovers of Bernini’s work have enjoyed the opportunity to better understand the artist through the study of these works. The pieces have even been used to confirm Bernini’s authorship in the cases of several disputed works. “This is the type of groundbreaking exhibition that the Kimbell Art Museum is known for,” says Eric M. Lee, the Museum’s director.
The exhibit brings to life Bernini’s artistic process and lays open his fertile imagination. He typically began his work with quick sculptural sketches — bozetti — similar to the drawings a painter might make before committing to a larger work. Later he would move on to clay models — modelli — often done in terracotta. These models were used as previews for benefactors, to win commissions or as guides for the assistants who completed his work. With a vivid imagination and working rapidly, Bernini often switched between sketching and molding, using both media to explore his work before he committed to stone or bronze.
The casual viewer will enjoy the intimate tour through Bernini’s sculpting studio. “[The exhibit] not only examines Bernini’s artistic process in clay, but it also enables the viewer to establish a personal relationship with the artist by opening a portal into his extraordinary mind,” says Lee. His long-celebrated works come alive as the steps taken to create them are exposed for all to see through the exhibit’s 40 clay sculptures and 30 drawings.
“With over 70 magnificent works of art, seen in the light of a new understanding of the creative process, the exhibition brings a master sculptor’s genius to life once again,” Lee says.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Kneeling Angel, 1672
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds (1937.63). Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College