26 October 2009

Edward Burne-Jones: The Earthly Paradise at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart has on through 7 February 2010 an exhibition of Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898), It's a major show, but not, as claimed, the first on this artist’s work ever to be presented in Germany. Some idea of the content and theme can be found in the web announcement:
Myths, legends and sagas come to life in his splendid narrative cycles which, as the focus of the show, will lure visitors into magical worlds. The tale of Sleeping Beauty, the saga of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the myth of the demigod Perseus who beheaded the horrible Gorgon Medusa and liberated Princess Andromeda from the clutches of a sea monster: it was not only in large-scale paintings and tapestries that Burne-Jones depicted these and other stories. Literary motifs of this kind also figure in his designs for stained-glass windows, ceramic tiles, furniture, book illustrations and other three-dimensional and textile works. Each of the new exhibition rooms on the ground floor of the Old Staatsgalerie will be devoted to a different sphere of his narrative universe.
As they note, "Burne-Jones shared his appreciation of the applied arts as an agent unifying art and life with William Morris, one of the fathers of modern design. Not only were the two men close friends throughout their lives; they also worked side by side at Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., founded in 1861." The title of the exhibition comes, of course, from Morris's epic poem, The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870), from which Burne-Jones derived inspiration for his narrative cycles

The exhibition is "being realized under the sponsorship of the British ambassador to Germany, Sir Michael Arthur." It will be on view at the Kunstmuseum Bern from 19 March to 25 July 2010.


Fabian said...

But what other exhibition has been there? I can only think of the one on the Cupid and Psyche woodcuts in Neuss in 1998, but you would hardly call that a "monographic exhibition to the oeuvre"...

William Morris Society said...

The Museum Villa Stuck had a Burne-Jones exhibition in 1974 and Galerie Michael Hasenclever had one in 1972. While neither is on the scale of what's on now at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, both would certainly qualify as a "monographic exhibition."

ianmac55 said...

We've just returned from a few days in Stuttgart and thought that the exhibition was first class. It occupies the whole of the old part of the Staatsgalerie and is well displayed. There is a chronological section, a section devoted to the Perseus series (recenly loaned to Birmingham) but with many of the preparatory studies that Stuttgart holds, and a tapestries section.

As well as many pieces from the permanent collection, there are works from, for example, Puerto Rico, the United States, Dublin, the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, and Birmingham. There are many works from other German collections; we had not realised that Hamburg and Karlsruhe have collections of textiles and stained glass designs.

German connections must give local visitors further insights into Burne-Jones and provide interesting connections for British visitors. PRB aims are compared to those of the Nazarenes; Arts & Crafts principles are compared to those of the Bauhaus and the Werkbund; the legend behind "The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon" is compared to that of Emperor Frederick I "Barbarossa" sleeping in the Kyffhäuser Mountain.

We bought a German-language copy of the catalogue which is very well illustrated. It has a dozen or so essays from German scholars together with contributions from John Christian, William Waters and Peter Nahum, introduced by Sean Rainbird the Staatsgalerie's director.

There is a very full programme of accompanying events.

During our stay in Stuttgart, the German media covered the opening of the exhibition. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, for example, led its review section on Wednesday with an article by Gottfried Knapp headed "Träum ich? Wach' ich?" accompanied by illustrations of a preparatory sketch for the "Briar Rose", and a version of "St George and the Dragon".

It's a really enjoyable exhibition!

Fabian said...

The English version of the catalogue is now available as well (via amazon.de or the publisher hatje cantz).

Michael Mattison said...

It doesn't get any more opulent than this; a first-rate exhibit which I just returned from.

Stuttgart already boasts the "Perseus Cycle" in its permanent collection. And though still a highlight, there's so much more than that Cycle alone. They've really gone all out for an artist and an aesthetic that far too often has taken a back seat to other 19th century styles.

Well worth a visit, either here or in Berlin as of March.