Little Italy

A touring art exhibition that condenses 500 years of Italian art through 40 paintings is open to visitors of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Museum curator Alison Amick has worked more than two years organizing Of Heaven and Earth, a collection of Italian paintings from the Glasgow Museum in Scotland. The show presents five sections covering a 500-year period, starting with religious art of the 1300s.

The exhibit spotlights Italian artists such as Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Domenichino, Francesco Guardi, Salvator Rosa and Titian, who flourished in Italy’s numerous art capitals.

Amick said the exhibition is designed to appeal to aficionados, as well as to people who simply love beautiful art.

“I think our audiences will be inspired on many levels by the exhibition,” she said. “First and foremost, the paintings on view are just beautiful. There’s such a quality about them.”

It’s a quality that, according to Amick, 19th-century collector Archibald McLellan appreciated enough to acquire half of Glasgow Museum’s entire collection of Italian art.

“A subtheme of the exhibition is just looking at trends in collecting and what was of interest to two collectors in the 19th century, when many of these works were acquired,” Amick said.

The exhibition also reveals trends of the time and their relationship to historical events and social issues such as classicism. It also shows aesthetic preferences, like using canvas or panel, making a human figure more voluptuous or dwarfing the figure against a landscape.

To make the exhibition’s breadth more accessible to more viewers, Amick and the museum team have compiled a “community-sourced audio guide,” which features a variety of local voices from Mayor Mick Cornett to children responding to a painting.

According to Chandra
Boyd, Senior Associate Curator of Education, there are also activities
for old and young audiences: a historic timeline, a reading area, a
scavenger hunt for saints depicted in the art and a station where you
create a postcard souvenir inspired by the art or one’s own travels.

“I
[want] to just make sure we present it in an approachable way that also
creates a nice atmosphere for the works to display them [and] really
helps break down those barriers,” Amick said, “which may make people
have some hesitation on a topic that they may not be familiar with.”

The Glasgow Museum sent strong pieces from its collection, including Titian’s Christ and the Adulteress, which serves as the focal point of “The Splendor of the Renaissance,” a section that covers the 1500s.

This
traveling exhibition will continue to four other continental venues
after premiering at OKCMOA. The tour will end May 3, 2015, at the Santa
Barbara Museum of Art.

“It’s
an exhibition I think people will enjoy,” Amick said. “I think they’ll
enjoy coming to it repeatedly because there is a lot to take in. It’s
unlike anything that we have presented before.”

Molly Evans

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