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Building the Picture - Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting

Date: 11/04/2014

This spring, the National Gallery presents the first exhibition in Britain to explore the role of architecture within painting, and focuses on Italian Renaissance painting of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

The exhibition, which opens on 30 April, was underpinned by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research undertaken by academics at the University of York.

Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting aims to increase visitors' appreciation and understanding of some of the most beautiful and architectonic paintings by Italian masters such as Duccio, Botticelli, Crivelli and their contemporaries. Visitors will be encouraged to look in new ways at buildings depicted in paintings, and to investigate how artists invented spaces in mind and paint that transcended the reality of bricks, mortar and marble.

With a record-breaking six million visits during 2013, the National Gallery remains committed to researching and showcasing its extraordinarily rich permanent collection. As a result of the research partnership between the National Gallery and the University of York, this exhibition offers a fresh interpretation of some of the National Gallery's own Italian Renaissance collections. In addition, Building the Picture will include the Venetian master Sebastiano del Piombo's The Judgement of Solomon (Kingston Lacy, The Bankes Collection, National Trust), on display in London for the first time in 30 years, and The Ruskin Madonna by Andrea del Verrocchio (National Gallery of Scotland).

Caroline Campbell, Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500, said: This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to think about how pictures can achieve an architectural sort of beauty. We can look beyond perspective to appreciate the imagined and fantastical spaces created by architecture. And the sense of mass, scale and three-dimensionality introduced by buildings changes the balance and feel of a painting.

Building the Picture explores the roles played by architecture in painting and how it affects the viewing process. Architecture within paintings has often been treated as a passive background or as subordinate to the figures. This exhibition shows how, on the contrary, architecture underpinned many paintings, and was used to design the whole picture from the very start. This was the case in Sandro Botticelli's Adoration of the Kings, where the ruins in the picture were planned first and still dominate the composition. Renaissance paintings are full of arches, doorways and thresholds,

Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting is an online catalogue produced by the National Gallery to accompany the exhibition. Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, says: I am delighted that this catalogue will be permanently accessible on the National Gallery website, where it can be read and enjoyed by a very wide audience.

Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting is curated by Dr. Amanda Lillie, Reader in History of Art at the University of York; and Caroline Campbell, Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500; with Alasdair Flint, CDA PHD student, University of York/National Gallery.

Notes to Editors

  • Publicity images can be obtained from the National Gallery website. To obtain a username please contact the National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email press@ng-london.org.uk
  • For public enquiries, please contact 020 7747 2885 or information@ng-london.org.uk
  • Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting is organised by the National Gallery, London. This exhibition is part of the research partnership between the National Gallery and the History of Art Department at the University of York. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have funded the research and development of the exhibition, including the production of the online exhibition catalogue, and a number of short filmed interviews with contemporary cultural figures, addressing the interaction of painting and architecture.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk

Publication

Building the Picture: Architecture in Italian Renaissance Painting is an online exhibition catalogue produced by the National Gallery to accompany the exhibition. This digital catalogue will be accessible online at the National Gallery website.

Authors: Amanda Lillie, Caroline Campbell, Alasdair Flint, Caroline Elam, Jessica Gritti, Charles Robertson, and Arnika Schmidt

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