July 11, 2012
Giovanni Battista Lusieri – Lord Elgin’s artist’s works go on display in Edinburgh’s National Gallery
Giovanni Battista Lusieri is famous to many as the artist employed by Lord Elgin, who was instrumental in the process of removal of the marbles from the Parthenon.
Originally, Lord Elgin had considered a number of possible artists for his trip – one of who was the (then not so famous & therefore deemed unsuitable for the role) J M W Turner. Lusieri ended up with the job & produced many sketches & paintings of the Parthenon both before & after the removal of the marbles. He stayed in Athens long after Lord Elgin had left & all of the works from this period were unfortunately lost at sea, when the ship carrying them, the Cambria, was wrecked off the coast of Crete in 1828.
A new exhibition looks at some of his other paintings which have survived however – from this one might get an idea of how the works made in Athens would have looked.
July 1, 2012 7:05 pm
Expanding Horizons: Giovanni Battista Lusieri and the Panoramic Landscape, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
By Jackie Wullschlager
This is the first show devoted to the once sought-after painter of monuments and volcanos
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Giovanni Battista Lusieri is known today, if at all, for supervising the removal of the Elgin Marbles from Greece to London. But in the late 18th century he was among the most sought-after landscape artists, noted by Lord Byron as “an Italian painter of the first eminence” and assiduously collected by English and European aristocrats passing through Naples and Sicily. There he met Lord Elgin and, although he didn’t speak a word of English, was offered the post of painter in residence at a salary of £200 a year and ended up running Elgin’s team of archaeologists, craftsmen and architects.
The Scottish National Gallery’s show is the first – anywhere, ever – devoted to Lusieri, whose reputation was already diminishing at his death and never recovered. His achievement stands as a man caught between Classicism and Romanticism: born in Rome in 1754, he loved ancient monuments but also volcanos, and depicted both in limpid, crystalline watercolours admired for their meticulous detail, flawless perspectives, sparkling light effects and panoramic scope.
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“The Bay of Naples from Palazzo Sessa” is his most spectacular, and is monumental for a watercolour: 9ft long, composed of six large sheets joined together, it depicts the broad stretch of water from Castel dell’Ovo to Mergellina and Posillipo, with the waterfront buildings reflected in the sea in brilliant light. High vantage points and all-embracing vistas combined with precise detail similarly characterise the watercolours “View of Rome from the Juniculum Hill”, “Panoramic View of Palermo”, with the city silhouetted against the sea and intensely tactile rock surfaces in the foreground, and “Herculaneum Gate, Pompeii”.
Unique is a painting Lusieri refused to sell: “Vesuvius During the Eruption of 1794” – a stark, theatrical confrontation of fire and water, with peripheral detail unusually eliminated. Although he loathed the fashion for “pictures that are created in the main part from imagination”, this piece is romantic in sensibility – and compelling.
First show for marbles artist Giovanni Lusieri at National Gallery
By TIM CORNWELL
Published on Sunday 1 July 2012 00:00
THE Italian artist Giovanni Lusieri has gone down in history as the man who removed the Elgin Marbles from Athens and shipped them to Britain.
But the Scottish National Gallery yesterday unveiled the first exhibition devoted to the art of Lord Elgin’s loyal agent, two centuries after his death.
His stunning landscapes and watercolours have been compared to Venetian master Canaletto, and the show promises to restore his reputation.
Lusieri’s work for Lord Elgin at first consisted of drawing, recording and taking casts of classical monuments in Athens. But when the agenda shifted, he arranged the removal of the marbles from the Parthenon in 1801, working in meticulous detail to crate and ship them.
He was an admired and popular Italian artist in his day but his involvement with the controversial marbles has “blotted out” his talents, the current Lord Elgin told Scotland on Sunday.
“This side of the story with his artistic accomplishments has been hidden. The purpose of the exhibition is to make quite clear what an extraordinarily competent artist he was,” said Lord Elgin, who has lent many works to the exhibition.
Lusieri died in Athens in 1821 after 20 years in what was at the time a little visited Turkish garrison town. Many of his pictures went down in a shipwreck, while others disappeared into private collections. The Elgin family bought the lion’s share of his work after his death.
The Scottish National Gallery’s senior curator, Aidan Weston-Lewis, has worked since 2007 to put the exhibition together. It includes many unseen works from the Elgin family collection. One highlight is a stunning panorama borrowed from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
“It’s a rare thing to find an artist that hasn’t been properly discovered,” Weston-Lewis said “We are quite happy to put him on the map as a brilliant artist.”
While Lusieri’s work is known to specialists and has featured in shows on the period, this is the first exhibition focused solely on his artwork.
Weston-Lewis compared his watercolours of Rome and Naples to the work of Canaletto, in their meticulous detail and light.
The works on show include a striking watercolour of an owl, which was lying in a drawer at the Elgin family home for probably a century.
- Watercolours from Elgin’s artist go on sale : January 16, 2013
- Video of the watercolour paintings of the Parthenon frieze : November 7, 2012
- Sotheby’s didn’t sell the Elgin Marbles – they sold a marble sculpture that was legally purchased by Lord Elgin : December 12, 2012
- Some of the Lewis Chessmen to be reunited temporarily in Scotland : October 1, 2009
- Exhibition in Boston of watercolour paintings of Elgin Marbles : November 6, 2012
- If Lord Elgin had visited another country rather than Greece, what would they look like now : August 16, 2012
- The Elgin Marbles issue exposes the SNP’s duplicity : July 12, 2008
- Should Lewis Chessmen be returned? : September 26, 2007