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For Your Approval: Oil Sketches by Tiepolo At the Getty Center, May 3–September 4, 2005

March 18, 2005

LOS ANGELES—One of the most brilliant painters of the 18th century, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696–1770) was hailed for his grand altarpieces and illusionistic ceiling frescoes that graced palaces and churches across Europe.  For Your Approval: Oil Sketches by Tiepolo, at the Getty Center, May 3–September 4, 2005, presents preliminary studies that Tiepolo made to work out his complex large-scale compositions and to present to his clients. Valued as works of art in their own right, these oil sketches are in many cases the only evidence of Tiepolo’s grand compositions that remain today.

For Your Approval features ten remarkable oil sketches and an altarpiece fragment on loan from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and also includes works from the Getty’s collection and from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Appearing only at the Getty Center, this exhibition is part of an ongoing series of loans to the Getty Museum from the Courtauld.  The range of works on view represents the full arc of Tiepolo’s long career.  A small, related installation of paintings by Tiepolo, which includes the Getty’s Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles (about 1740), Saint Rocco (about 1730-35), also on loan from the Courtauld, and Saint Rocco (about 1730-35) on loan from the Huntington, will be on view concurrently in the second level galleries of the South Pavilion.  For Your Approval is also complemented by the Getty exhibition Light and Water: Drawing in Eighteenth-Century Venice, on view from May 17 to August 21, 2005. 

Oil sketches first emerged during the Renaissance as an alternative to drawing—a way to emphasize color and shade.  For Tiepolo, oil sketches played an important intermediary role in developing the composition, palette, and use of light in his spectacular full-scale frescoes, which were painted in plaster directly on walls or ceilings.  These complicated works demanded considerable preparation.  Most artists began ceiling paintings with drawings, gradually building up to oil sketches.  Tiepolo reversed the process, laying down his initial ideas in an oil sketch, and only later using drawing to refine details.  These sketches, rapidly painted, allowed Tiepolo to test ideas, to explore the effectiveness of various illusions, and to present them to his patrons. 

Despite these practical roles, these paintings were also valued as independent works of art.  By the 1700s, artists and collectors believed that preliminary sketches represented the pure, spontaneous expression of artistic genius, and Tiepolo’s works were especially prized for their deft touch, imaginative use of color and light, and inventive approach to subject matter.

A gifted storyteller, Tiepolo painted walls and ceilings with large, expansive scenes of intoxicating enchantment. His sketch The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto (1743), now in the Getty’s collection, depicts a scene that once covered the ceiling of the Scalzi church in Venice.  Bombing during World War I destroyed the fresco, but the sketch offers us an idea of Tiepolo’s skill in dramatizing the story of angels miraculously transporting the Virgin Mary’s home from the Holy Land to Loreto, a small town in Italy.  By painting the figures in the lowest register in large scale and those near the top in a smaller size, Tiepolo gives the viewer the illusion that the scene is an extension of the space, and that the church’s ceiling is opening up to the sky to reveal the miracle.  In the center, the house flies across the heavens; Mary and Christ bless the worshippers below; and figures expelled from heaven tumble out of the image.

Late in his career, Tiepolo embarked on an unprecedented commission: seven altarpieces for the church of San Pascual Baylon in Aranjuez, Spain, which King Charles III (reigned 1759–88) had built for a group of Alcantarine friars.  In the 1800s the altarpieces were cut into pieces or destroyed, so the five sketches presented here best reveal Tiepolo’s intentions for the commission.  These works stand among the great achievements of the artist’s late career.  Their simple compositions and monumental severity reveal a new voice appropriate for both the austere Alcantarine order and the more rational spirituality advocated by the king of Spain that was influenced by the Enlightenment.

A fully illustrated catalogue, Giambattista Tiepolo: Fifteen Oil Sketches, will be released by Getty Publications to accompany the exhibition. This publication brings together a group of the artist’s oil sketches from the Courtauld that spans his entire career and reveals the amazing confidence and fluidity with which he created these paintings.

Light and Water: Drawing in Eighteenth-Century Venice
May 17–August 21, 2005 
The grand tradition of Venetian art reached its first peak in the Renaissance and came to its glorious apex during the 18th century. The great artists of the day, including Giovanni Battista, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Antonio Canaletto, and Francesco Guardi, captured the charms of this floating city and the play of light on water in shimmering pen-and-ink sketches, layered with luminous washes. Featuring a number of new acquisitions, this exhibition showcases the Getty’s collection of 18th-century Venetian artists, along with important works from collections in the Los Angeles area. From caricatures to portraits, biblical and mythological subjects, and ideal and imaginary views, these works on paper reveal the depth and variety of artistic invention in a magical city during one of its greatest historical moments. The exhibition complements the presentation of For Your Approval: Oil Sketches by Tiepolo.

All events are free and are held in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium, unless otherwise noted. Seating reservations are required. For reservations and information, please call (310) 440-7300 or visit Tickets are available on-site or by phone.

Tuesday–Sunday, May 10–22, 1:30 p.m.
A special one-hour overview of the exhibition.  Meet under the stairs in the Museum Entrance Hall.

Sunday, June 12, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Museum Courtyard
Enter the world of the Venetian carnevale and explore its folklore and art. Discover the classic characters of commedia dell'arte, listen to Musicántica's Italian folk music or arias sung by members of the Los Angeles Opera, and make your own Venetian mask.  Complements the exhibitions Light and Water: Drawing in Eighteenth-Century Venice and For Your Approval: Oil Sketches by Tiepolo.

Giambattista Tiepolo’s Creative Imagination
Sunday, June 26, 4:00 p.m.
Catherine Whistler, senior assistant keeper for the collections of Italian and Spanish paintings and drawings at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, discusses one of the most important and celebrated artists of the 18th century, Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770), who was admired for his expressive powers and imaginative flights. Complements the exhibitions Light and Water and For Your Approval: Oil Sketches by Tiepolo.

Gordon Getty Concert: Quartetto di Venezia
Saturday, June 18, 8:00 p.m.
Founded more than a decade ago, when its members were students at the Venice Conservatory, the Quartetto di Venezia delights audiences with its distinctively Italian playing style and sparkling repertoire.  Known for their exquisite quality of sound and a unique voice that emphasizes the characteristics of individual instruments, they are revitalizing the extraordinary Italian tradition of string quartet playing. Tickets $20; students/seniors $15.

Publications are available in the Getty Bookstore, by calling (800) 223-3431 or (310) 440-7059, or online at

Giambattista Tiepolo: Fifteen Oil Sketches
By Jon Seydl
Best known for his monumental frescoes and epic altarpieces, Tiepolo also made exquisite, smaller oil sketches in preparation for these grand commissions. The unusual intimacy of these preparatory sketches—made directly on the canvas with no preliminary underdrawing—reveals a great artist’s vigorous imagination at work. Paperback: $19.95

MEDIA CONTACT:                 Miranda Carroll
                                            Getty Communications Dept.

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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