Cherubs and Angels Praise Guercino's Art the Italian Baroque Master Is Featured in Two Shows at the National Gallery

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TWIN shows are now starring at the National Gallery, and they are both the work of Guercino (Italian for "the squinter"), who triumphed over that nickname to become the master painter of the Italian baroque.

"Guercino: Drawings from Windsor Castle" and "Guercino: Master Painter of the Baroque" have been brought together for the 400th birthday of the artist (whose real name was Giovanni Francesco Barbieri). This is the first American exhibition of 60 of his paintings from European sources, along with 60 of his drawings from the world's finest collection at Windsor Castle. Most of the works in the double exhibition have never been seen before in the United States.

Sir Denis Mahon, an internationally known expert on Guercino, answered a reporter's question on how he compared and contrasted the paintings and drawings:

"Well, that's an impossible question. Guercino is essentially a spontaneous artist," he says. "Of course, you get his personality in drawings, because these were not public documents, they were private documents. He throws himself into {them}. Of course, a painting is a more public thing. It has to be exhibited to the public and so on. They're different things, but they're part of the same personality.

"But the spontaneity exists in the drawings, and of course in the earlier paintings, you see the same sort of spontaneity there as in the drawings. Later on a very delicate discipline suddenly comes over him."

The Hon. Jane Roberts, curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle, points out that the drawings were seldom made independently of the paintings. Because the drawings are preparatory for the paintings, she says, "the drawings are a very good way into the paintings."

We enter the first three galleries of drawings, before the eight galleries of paintings.

The drawings range from the sublime "Angel of the Annunciation" (1638-1639) to the grotesque: a three-faced man beset by devils in "Symbolic or Magical Subject."

In "David With the Head of Goliath" one can see the contrast between the original drawing with the monumental head bloodied on the ground at David's left knee; and the painting, in which David kneels on the body, his foot on Goliath's chin.

The drawing of "Atlas Standing, Slightly Turned to the Left" and other variations, when compared to his painting "Atlas," shows that the drawing was reversed like a mirror image in the painting, and that the huge navy-blue world, red scarf, and struggling bearded man in the painting grew out of the drawing. …