The St. Louis Art Museum has an exhibit up Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master through this coming Sunday, January 20th, that is well-worth seeing. This particular preview image here is better than many you will find online — the colors and tone-scale are pretty true, but nothing compared to seeing the real thing in person. The idea that “religious art” is dark and somber is wrong, wrong, wrong. These paintings are stunning and huge — most of them are of architectural scale, not paintings for a suburban living room.
Barocci had a truly Catholic eye — he could capture a supernatural vision within mundane (even funny) ordinary life. An example is here in the painting called La Madonna del Gatto, or roughly Our Lady of the Cat. She is holding St. John and our Lord in a domestic setting where the last prophet of the Old Testament is playing with (teasing?) a cat. The message here is that Salvation History isn’t a mere abstraction — it happened and looked at least at the time pretty ordinary (and conventionally nuts). This is what “incarnation” means and Barocci got it on canvas.
There is another noteworthy aspect to the exhibit. One is struck at the hard work that goes into “making art” even after materials and technique are thoroughly mastered. The exhibit contains dozens of sketches and painted studies Barocci made in order to create these great works of art. I have a dear friend who is a professor of art at a local university who complains that students want to “be creative” but don’t want to put in the work necessary to make good art on the off chance they have a good idea. This exhibition screams “Good art is hard work!”
But forget my lame semi-academic musings: the whole exhibit can be thoroughly enjoyed simply for what it is — a riot of color and light and authentic Catholic vision. Go see it. Take the kids. You’ll never have a chance like this again.
When • Through Jan. 20. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday.
Where • St. Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive
How much • Free to members; $10 adults, $8 students and seniors, $6 children 6 to 12, free for children under 6, free to all on Fridays
More info • Click Here or 314-721-0072