Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Michelangelo’s Drawings

The British Museum’s Exhibition of Michelangelo’s Drawings was disappointing. I felt like the child in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was an exhibition of Michelangelo’s art stripped bare. There were photos of the end products, even work, not by but ‘after’ the artist, like Leda and the Swan, and then what there was of Michelangelo's work at the exhibiton, though lovely was an initial sketch which was never meant to be seen by us. It was like seeing the amazingly intricate movement of a puppeteer without the puppet, the emperor naked.

There was an attempt to make up for this lack of context by providing alongside the drawings photographs of finished work and centrally parts of the Sistine Chapel projected on the ceiling. However there were very few images to enjoy and the best part of the exhibition for me turned out to be the computer screens where you could choose a drawing and watch it fit and find its place in the finished painting in the Sistine Chapel. This, though, I could have done from home on my PC.

I have seen the Sistine Chapel, La Pieta and David. The British Museum exhibition did the artist who produced these masterpieces no justice. Perhaps it was impossible. Perhaps it would only be possible in Rome or Florence or wherever the finished products reside. Or perhaps with more money or a larger, higher ceiling with a little more technology the computer screens and ceiling projections could have been married and expanded to create a Sistine Chapel to approximate the sheer scale of the artist’s accomplishments.

Perhaps it was thought that as they were Michelangelo’s drawings that that’s all that was needed to draw a crowd. Looking at the numbers attending, including myself, it’s true. And most people will probably be delighted with the exhibition, or at least think they should be so may not voice opinions to the contrary.

I tried so hard not to be disappointed. I am a creative person and wanted my imagination to be captured. I knew something was wrong when I began writing this poem:

Michelangelo’s Drawings

Black Chalk
Red Chalk
Red and Black Chalk
Pen and Brown Ink
Contour in Stylus
Heightened with Lead White
Square Scale Grid
Full Size Drawings Cartoons
Outlines on Wet Plaster
Water Based Pigments
The Sistine Chapel

And I was sure that there was something wrong on the way out, when I saw more imagination, than was in the exhibition, evident in the shop. I could see that effort had been put into merchandising. I was even more disappointed. It could have been a Disney Store, except even Disney would have presented their drawings better.

Take the British Museum online-tour of Michelangelo's Drawings for free: Online-Tour

Leda and the Swan which you can see for free when it returns to the National Gallery


At 15/4/06 12:17 pm, Blogger Karl Zipser said...

I did research on the Michelangelo Drawings exbhibition when it was in Haarlem. I found that the exhibition presented a distorted view, especially with respect to M.'s pen drawings. What do you think?

Best, Karl Zipser, Ph.D.


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