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New Drawings Exhibition at the Getty Depicts Vivid Scenes of Leisure and Labor

Work and Play: Everyday Life in Drawings, 1520-1820
On View July 31 - October 14 at the Getty Museum

July 20, 2001

Los Angeles--Beginning on July 31, the J. Paul Getty Museum presents Work and Play: Everyday Life in Drawings, 1520-1820, an installation from the permanent collection featuring several new acquisitions and a teaching display designed to make the show more accessible to children. The exhibition of 35 drawings charts the emergence and development of subjects that focused on people's everyday lives, from the cycle of daily labors to an array of leisure-time entertainments.

"These engaging drawings provide a window into the daily lives of people of past centuries," said Lee Hendrix, Getty Museum drawings curator. "We hope that children, as well as adults, enjoy the colorful and vivid scenes of work and play featured in this installation."

Among the Getty's recent acquisitions on view in the exhibition is Jacob Jordaens' A Merry Company (around 1644). In this raucous scene, a crowd of merrymakers enjoys the pleasant weather outside a tavern while finding added delight in wine, song, and the company of others. Jordaens heavily worked this drawing with gouache and watercolor to create a rich finish that reflects the earthy humor of the subject. Using broken angular lines and a delicate balance of light and shadow, Jordaens imbued his figures with movement and depth. The scene may have served to illustrate a popular proverb at the turn of the 17th century: "ill gained, ill spent." Even though the adage warns against excess, the rollicking good time shown in the drawing would have been seen as comical and entertaining by viewers of the day.

In another recent acquisition, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione's A Family of Shepherds (1640s), the artist reshaped standard mythological and religious themes to arrive at a new type of subject in which an everyday shepherd family rests in the landscape. Castiglione was also a technical innovator who helped originate the oil sketch on paper. In this drawing, his dazzling brushstrokes in brown and green oil paint imbue the drawing with a sense of vitality of the natural world.

Special Display for Children and Families

To engage families in conversation about the drawings, three are displayed in the center of the gallery at a lower height--at a child's eye level. Questions and activities invite children and their adult companions to look closely, as if they are detectives, to find clues about messages within the drawings and to consider how similar or different our ideas of "what is work?" and "how do we play?" compare to those of long ago. A worksheet then extends the conversation to the rest of the exhibition and invites families to explore related paintings in the galleries upstairs.

"We want families to know they are welcome here," said Diane Brigham, head of education at the Museum. "These delightful works of art can spark lively conversations among adults and children alike. When people realize that others long ago faced similar dilemmas in daily life, powerful personal connections are made to the art of the past that can foster a lifetime interest."

"This exhibition is a collaborative effort between the museum's curators and educators that will help us achieve the Getty's overall educational priorities," she added.

This new form of art featuring scenes from everyday life emerged during the Renaissance. At that time, people began to believe that human existence not only consisted of salvation and the life hereafter, but also encompassed the pleasures and attractions of life on earth. Art depicting everyday life was destined mainly for domestic interiors, ranging from the palaces of the nobility to the smaller dwellings of the growing middle class. Artists who rendered everyday subjects often emphasized the concrete details of materials, textures, and settings. When critics codified artistic subject matter during the 1700s, they called the depiction of everyday life "genre subjects" (the word genre meaning "kind" or "sort")--the term still used today.

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Related Activities:

Artful Sundays
Pick up a handout before visiting the galleries for some inspiration and fun. Then create your own art in this drop-in workshop. Every Sunday until September from 12-4 p.m., Family Room Patio.

Point-of-View Gallery Talks
Artist Edgar Arceneaux, known for his drawings, videos and public art, will talk about the exhibition on Friday, September 21, 2001, at 6 and 7:30 p.m. in the Museum galleries. Limited to 25 people per talk; sign up at the Museum Information Desk beginning at 4:30 p.m.

About the Getty:

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.

Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.