|'Sleeping Boy' by Salvator Rosa (1615 - 1673)|
A new collection of work bequeathed to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by art historian Alfred Moir
(1924-2010) offers a glimpse of some exquisite old master drawings and other rare works from mainly 17th-century artists. The small room in the MIA is filled with work that is both masterfully created and gripping.
|'Five Grotesque Heads' by Gaetano Gandolfi (1734 - 1802)|
Moir passed away in November 2011, according to an obituary in the Santa Barbara Independent
. A man with a "booming voice" and a "buoyant presence," Moir was born and raised in Minneapolis, before serving as a master sergeant in World War II and then obtaining his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University, the obit says. He taught at Tulane University and then at the University of California Santa Barbara, but throughout his life he also was a collector, and he donated his collection to various institutions after his death, including the MIA.
The exhibit shows a collector who admires art that has a bit of drama to it. For example, Five Grotesque Heads, by Baroque artist Gaetano Gandolfi (1734 - 1802), pictures five heads in a circle -- all with distorted features like bulging chins and foreheads, one with his mouth agape as if he's screaming in pain. Made with pen and brown ink over traces of black chalk on laid paper, the drawing is disturbing to say the least.
Then there's the dramatic Roman Soldier and Woman Fleeing Armed Man with a Shovel, which is attributed to 18th-century artist Francesco Fontebasso. In this piece, a man runs toward a woman (his wife?) and a soldier, wearing armor and shield. The woman's arms are stretched out in front of her. Is she trying to escape with the soldier, who towers above her, twice her size? Maybe she's being kidnapped. Despite the size of the soldier, the man seems to be getting the better of him, hitting his sword out of his hand with a shovel. This is a piece that relishes in drama.
|Seated Male Nude by Circle of Pietro da Cortona (Pietro Berrettini)|
Some of the studies almost look contemporary. Louise-George Brillouin's drapery study looks a bit like Ash Marlene Hane's work recently on view at Gamut Gallery, with the female figure's head disappearing into the blue paper.
There are also pensive, quiet studies such as Sleeping Boy, a remarkable drawing by 17th-century artist Salvator Rosa. A tiny work, only 2 1/4 x 3 1/16 inches, it shows just the boy's feet, legs, backside, and arm as he lies down for a nap. Another drawing of a lounging young lad is Seated Male Nude, by Circle of Pietro da Cortona (Pietro Berrettini) showing a young male with curly hair lounging against a backrest.
Clearly, Moir had a keen eye for both excellently executed work and art that was slightly provoking. It's worth checking out next time you are at the museum. Drawings from the Bequest of Alfred Moir
is on the third floor in the Winton Jones Gallery (344), and it's free! The MIA is at 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis.