Currently on display at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts until 23rd September 2018 is a noteworthy exhibition, titled ‘Drawn To Perfection: Masterworks on Paper from the Royal Collection’. ‘Drawn to Perfection’ is the first exhibition of a new partnership between The Royal Collection Trust and the Barber Institute, which includes works from both collections. Importantly, this exhibition has been curated by five University of Birmingham students, Ruth Léger, Aikaterina Nakatisiadi, Chris Ann Panther, Risa Teshirogi and India Wilson. This exhibition formed part of their MA course in Art History and Curating.
Drawn to Perfection
The ‘Drawn to Perfection’ exhibition primarily focuses on the varying purposes of drawings undertaken in Italy between around 1500 – 1700. The exhibition is divided into two sections, designs and studies.
The designs section focuses on drawings made for a wide range of purposes. These include preparatory compositions for oil paintings, frescos and architectural studies.
This section contains Domenico Piola’s A Woman Offering a Thesis to a Personification of Liguria. It depicts a woman offering her thesis to a personification of Liguria. In the distance there is a view of the city’s harbour and lighthouse. It was created around 1695 completed in pen and ink wash over black chalk. As part of the Royal Collection, this detailed design was made as the final model for a print by the French engraver Martial Desbois (1630 – 1700).
The studies section of the exhibition focuses on head and figure drawings. Included is Federico Bariocci’s The Head of an Old Man. This drawing depicts the head of an elderly bearded man, gazing to his left. Created using black, white and coloured chalks on pale blue-green paper, the artwork was most likely made in preparation for Bariocci’s Madonna del Popolo altarpiece in the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve in Arezzo, Tuscany.
Exhibition in Conversation Event
When attending the Exhibition in Conversation event, a talk by the MA students, they explained the challenging yet marvellous process involved in curating this exhibition. They discussed the difficulties of deciding upon a theme, wanting ‘Drawn To Perfection’ to have a different focus than prior exhibitions on similar artworks. In order to accomplish this, the students described a ‘back and forth’ process, to have a clear focus and narrow down the extensive list of their favourite artworks from the Royal Collection.
During this procedure, the students were also able to visit and go behind the scenes at Windsor Castle, in order to view artworks from the Royal Collection. As well as being a fantastic opportunity, this allowed them to effectively choose the drawings that would be best suited for their exhibition. This has clearly been a rare experience which allowed the students to create a fascinating exhibition.
A Comment from the Curators:
The following are observations from the students who curated the exhibition, reflecting on their experiences.
Working with the Royal Collection was an invaluable experience. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am so fortunate to have had.
To be part of the first cohort to work with the Royal Collection has been such a privilege. It has given us a real insight and experience of curating with the help of the Royal Collection and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
Having the opportunity to create an exhibition in such a prestigious gallery such as the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, has been amazing. However, being able to work with the Royal Collection throughout this year has been a wonderful experience I will never forget.
It was a great opportunity to work with curators in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the Royal Collections. In Japan I would not have such a practical involvement as a student. I will never forget this experience.
A Comment From The Deputy Director And Head Of Collections At The Barber Institute Of Fine Arts: Robert Wenley
It’s been both immensely exciting and hugely rewarding to collaborate with the brilliant team at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, who look after the finest private collection of works on paper in the world. They have evidently valued working with our excellent students, just as the students have been energised by the opportunity to curate such high quality objects. For the Barber this has been a great first year of the partnership and we very much look forward to the future exhibitions that result from it.