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October 06, 2021

Canova: Sketching in Clay

Antonio Canova, "Adam and Eve Mourning the Dead Abel" (detail)

Antonio Canova
Adam and Eve Mourning the Dead Abel (detail), c. 1818–1822
terracotta
overall: 21 x 30 x 18 cm (8 1/4 x 11 13/16 x 7 1/16 in.)
Museo Gypsotheca Antonio Canova, Possagno, Italy
Photograph © Tony Sigel

National Gallery of Art, Washington, June 11–October 9, 2023
The Art Institute of Chicago, November 19, 2023–March 18, 2024

Antonio Canova (1757–1822) was the preeminent European artist of his time, renowned for sensual marble sculptures that represented a new approach to classical idealism. Canova: Sketching in Clay is the first exhibition to focus on the expressive clay models that he created in preparation for his marbles. Through a careful analysis of approximately 40 of the some 60 terracotta models that survive, the exhibition seeks a deeper understanding of the artist, from his beginnings in Venice during the late 1770s to his death in 1822. Plaster and marble sculptures directly related to the terracottas are also included to help demonstrate how Canova moved from sketch to finished statue. The works—some rarely seen in public—come from private and public collections across Europe and the United States.

A scholarly catalog accompanies the exhibition and explores how and why Canova created his models. Extensive technical research was carried out in conjunction with the show, with findings revealing the steps Canova took in making his models, as well as the tool marks or modeling gestures that distinguish his style.

The exhibition is curated by C. D. Dickerson, curator and head of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art, and Emerson Bowyer, Searle Curator, Painting and Sculpture of Europe, The Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

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