A first-ever exhibition of the works of Francesco de Mura will make its only northeast stop at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center this spring. In the Light of Naples: The Art of Francesco de Mura will be on view April 21-July 2, 2017. This exhibition is free and open to the public.
Organized by the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, In the Light of Naples is the first monographic presentation of De Mura’s art and includes over forty loans from Italian collections as well as those from the United States including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. A full checklist can be found here .
“This show is historic on numerous levels,” explains James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Art Center. “Not only is this the first exhibition dedicated to De Mura, but it also signals the last manifestation of the highly evolved and refined illusionism of the late Baroque age before the advent of the revolutionary simplicity of Neo-classicism. Visitors will receive a rare treat in viewing these stunning and vibrant works.”
De Mura (1696-1782) could be termed the last great painter of the Baroque and Rococo periods. He showed extraordinary artistic talent at a young age, entering the prestigious studio of Francesco Solimena when he was just twelve years old. Active in Naples, De Mura created elaborate illusionistic palace and church decorations depicted in bursts of confectionary colors as well as smaller portraits, biblical, and historical paintings. De Mura was the court painter of the Bourbon King Charles VII of Naples who presided over the Kingdom’s Golden Age.
Yet De Mura has often been overlooked and knowledge of him severely limited. One major reason for this is that about a third of his works were destroyed in February 1944, during World War II, when Allied forces bombed Naples and the abbey church of Monte Cassino.
The more than forty paintings and drawings in this reveal much about the life of De Mura. “His essence lives in his art, and it is there we must look for him, since few of his words survive in letters and documents,” says exhibition curator Arthur R. Blumenthal, Director Emeritus of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. “In De Mura’s art, we sense an affinity for Neapolitan light, for the city’s music and theater that pulse like a heartbeat. We also see a single-minded intensity and discipline. De Mura felt a deep respect for the long line of geniuses who preceded him—from Caravaggio to Giordano to Solimena. Thus, through this exhibition, we see how De Mura ‘lived’ his art and how he lived for his art.”
Blumenthal also notes the intense physical demands creating these works required. “We can imagine the sheer physical effort and backbreaking hours De Mura poured into his painting—something barely imaginable today. We cannot envision, without heartbreak, the wiry De Mura, sprawled on scaffolding in the abbey of Monte Cassino creating his glorious paintings, knowing that, two hundred years later, Allied bombs would destroy it all. In the Light of Naples is not only the first exhibition of De Mura’s art; it is a revelation of the broadness and fullness of his creative vision. For the first time, we see where De Mura came from, the artist he developed into, and what he left behind. We discover the soul of the man.”
A completely illustrated scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition, which is underwritten while at Vassar by Christie's.
Exhibition opening lecture and reception
April 21, Friday
Taylor Hall, room 102
Arthur Blumenthal, exhibition curator, will give a lecture on the exhibition. A reception in the Art Center follows.
May 11, Thursday
Taylor Hall, room 203
“Striving for Perfection: A Life in the Arts with Actor Federico Castelluccio”
In association with the Art Center’s In the Light of Naples exhibition, The Sopranos cast member Castelluccio will discuss his life as actor and director, accomplished painter, and Old Master art collector in this illustrated talk.
June 1, Thursday
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Art Center director James Mundy will lead a talk on the works of Francesco de Mura, the 18th-century artist who is the subject of the spring exhibition In the Light of Naples.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 21,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.