COLUMBIA, SC.- The Columbia Museum of Art opened its fall exhibition European Splendors: Highlights from the Kress Collection, on view Saturday, October 1, 2022, through Sunday, January 1, 2023. The exhibition offers occasion to reconsider Renaissance art through the lens of the CMA’s remarkable holdings — largely off view since 2017 — in a luxurious new way. With a focus on the Italian schools, it reveals the artistic innovations in Europe from the late 13th century through the Baroque period.
“From the early years of the museum’s history, these important Renaissance and Baroque artworks formed the core of our collection,” says CMA Curator Michael Neumeister. “We are thrilled to present them anew in the context of a thematic exhibition, offering a fresh way to see old favorites.”
During the 1950s, the Kress Foundation donated some 700 works of European art to museums in 18 American cities. The largest portion of Samuel H. Kress’ personal collection went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Thanks to a series of gifts from his foundation, the second largest repository came to the CMA, forming the basis of its collection.
Since the museum’s gallery transformation in 2017, Kress holdings have been largely off view at the CMA. In collaboration with the Kress Foundation, the museum took the opportunity to organize a traveling exhibition of these works, European Splendors, which has been on an extraordinary national tour aimed at making these art-historical treasures accessible to new audiences. The works are being shown in museums including the Albany Museum of Art, BYU Museum of Art, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts until they return home in 2024. This exhibition gives Midlands viewers an opportunity to see them in the midst of their travels.
Vincenzo Catena (Italian, 1470 – 1531), Christ and the Samaritan Woman, c. 1520-1530, oil on canvas, 51 ¾ x 63 ½ inches. Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina; Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
European Splendors explores the renewed emphasis on the human condition as realism and individuality re-emerged out of the more abstract and symbolic religious subjects that had defined the European Middle Ages for centuries. This growing appreciation of the everyday is evident in the exhibition’s exciting arc of Italian painting shown alongside apothecary mortars and furniture pieces as well as stunning examples of Dutch portraiture and still life. Italian landscapes by Francesco Guardi and Giovanni Paolo Pannini illustrate the impulse to bring a piece of history home from one’s Grand Tour as well as the 18th-century mania for Greco-Roman ruins.
European Splendors offers a chance to experience these art historical works, often only known from books or digital images, in full living color. Notable artists include Botticelli, François Boucher, Canaletto, Pieter Claesz, and Tintoretto. Organized thematically, the exhibition invites viewers to reflect on the connections and divergences in art across this pivotal period.
Giuseppe Maria Crespi (Italian, 1665-1747), Girl with Black Dove, 1715-1730, oil on canvas, 31 ¼ x 26 inches. Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina; Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.