Exhibition: The culture of wine - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2016-11-08 • 2017-02-06

The culture of wine

Masters of printmaking from the vivanco collection

Rooms 16 to 19

The Museum is joining forces with the 5th edition of the International Festival of Printmaking and Art on Paper (FIG Bilbao), presenting a selection of prints from the collection of the Fundación Vivanco based on the theme of the world of wine.

The Culture of Wine. Masters of Printmaking from the Vivanco Collection brings together 76 works from the 15th century to the present day by artists of the stature of Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Giulio Bonasone, José de Ribera, Lucas van Leyden, Pablo Picasso, Joán Miró, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Antoni Tàpies, Andy Warhol, Paula Rego, Antonio Saura, Eduardo Chillida, Manolo Valdés, Eduardo Arroyo and Miquel Barceló, among others: all classic masters whose works are part of the holdings not normally on display at the Museo Vivanco de la Cultura del Vino.

The exhibition is organised as a comprehensive survey of the evolution of the print from the perspective of the culture of wine as perceived by each of the selected artists. As such, it constitutes a reflection on the importance of wine within the history of humanity and on a recurring iconographic motif in works of art of all periods.

The International Festival of Printmaking and Art on Paper (FIG Bilbao) has been working with the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum since 2012, programming an exhibition in its galleries to coincide with the fair. Over the past four years the public has been able to see Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Visionary memory (2012); Deciphering Sardinia. The engraved symbol (2013); Mimmo Paladino. Prints (2014); and The long Shadow of the Burin. Lucas van Leyden in the Mariano Moret Collection (2015). This year, The Culture of Wine. Masters of printmaking from the Vivanco Collection is part of the 5th edition. The FIG's art fair will be taking place from 17 to 20 November in the Palacio Euskalduna.




The exhibition is structured into two clearly differentiated sections. The first focuses on historical prints and is sub-divided into three parts: mythology, scenes of everyday life and customs, and Christianity. The second, which centres on the modern print, is a more varied section determined by the artistic personality of each of the artists represented.



The presence of wine in classical mythology is exemplified in the figure of Bacchus, Roman god of excess, madness, theatre and wine, whose Greek counterpart was Dionysus. With his colourful story, Bacchus was a notably ambiguous figure who could arouse passions but was simultaneously ingenuous. This dual nature brought his emotions close to those of human beings, for which reason he has attracted numerous artists over the course of the centuries. Subject since birth to the wrath of the goddess Hera, he was a homeless god who travelled around Egypt, Syria and India, from where he returned triumphant, giving rise to the splendid iconography known as "The Triumph of Bacchus", which inspired various prints in this collection. These works depict the elements characteristic of the god's retinue: fauns, maenads, panthers, Bacchus's companion Silenus (almost always shown drunk), myrtle, vine tendrils and the recurring presence of music and dance.

As a result, a number of printmakers, including Andrea Mantegna (Isola di Carturo, Italy, 1430/1431)-Mantua, Italy, 1506), Giulio di Antonio Bonasone (Bologna (?), Italy, 1510-1576), Johannes Sadeler (Brussels, 1550-Venice, Italy, 1600), Annibale Carracci (Bologna, 1560-Rome, 1609), Jan Saenredam (Zaandam, Low Countries, 1565-Assendelft, Low Countries, 1607), Jacob Matham (Haarlem, Holland, 1571-1631), Theodor Galle (Antwerp, Flanders, 1571-1633), José de Ribera (Xátiva, Valencia, 1591-Naples, Italy, 1652), Johannes Popels (Tournai, Belgium ca. 1600-Antwerp, Flanders, 1663), Pierre Lombart (Paris, 1612/1613-1681), Gerard de Lairesse (Liège, Southern Netherlands, 1641-Amsterdam, 1711), Bernard Picart (Paris, 1673-Amsterdam, 1733), Francesco Bartolozzi (Florence, Italy, 1727-Lisbon, 1815), Nicolas de Launay (Paris, 1739-1792), Francesco Piranesi (Rome, ca. 1785-Paris, 1810), and Johann Adam Klein (Nuremberg, Germany, 1794-Munich, Germany, 1875), depicted episodes from the life of the god of wine.

Bacchus thus appears in the series of twelve prints by Jacob Matham, notable for their technical virtuosity despite the small scale of the compositions; or the splendid print by José de Ribera based on one of his own paintings of 1626 in which Silenus yields to excess and inebriation in a setting in which the narrative details set this story in a human context. The same worldly air is evident in the engraving by Annibale Carracci, which reproduces his design for the background of a silver goblet made for Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. Among works relating to classical antiquity is the print by Andrea Mantegna inspired by Bacchic sarcophagi and by the celebrated sculpture known as the Apollo Belvedere. The same classical source is also evident in three engravings by Jan Saenredam after drawings by Hendrick Goltzius; an erudite allegory on the pleasures of the table and love, which would re-emerge with force during the Renaissance and Baroque periods as a metaphor of fertility and prosperity.


Scenes of everyday life and customs

This group includes scenes of taverns, banquets and figures drinking, in addition to images of labours associated with the cultivation of vines and with winemaking and its related trades, such as barrel-making, as seen in the print by Johannes van Vliet (Netherlands, ca.1610-(?)). Also notable is the engraving by William Hogarth (London, 1697-1764), a moralistic work in a satirical mode that is typical of this artist.



In the classical world wine was one of the most appreciated products in the Mediterranean region, seen as a civilising element and above all associated with a spiritual dimension through the myths and rituals of numerous societies. The symbolic value of wine and the vine and wine's intoxicating effect encouraged encounters between man and the sacred realm of a universal type. The colour of wine, easily identifiable with that of blood, was a symbol shared by different beliefs which related it to the mortal and divine realms, from ancient libations to Christian Transubstantiation in which it was transformed into the blood of Christ.

Artists thus depicted numerous biblical episodes using grapes and wine as the principal symbolic element in the narrative. This is the case with Lot and his Daughters, brilliantly depicted in prints by Lucas van Ledyen, Jan Saenredam and Johann Gotthard von Müller; The Supper at Emmaus by Albrecht Dürer; and Noah's Vineyards by Francesco Bartolozzi.


Modern prints

The modern section of works from the Vivanco Collection presents the world of wine through the multiplicity of styles of the principal artistic movements of the 20th century and their offshoots. This section opens with works from the 1920s, notably the unique narrative style of Marc Chagall (Vitebsk, Belarus, 1887-Saint-Paul de Vence, France, 1985), and a Cubist still-life by Juan Gris (Madrid, 1887-Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, 1927). In the 1930s, Pablo Picasso (Malaga, 1881-Mougins, France, 1973) focused with particular interest on mythology, evident in images such as the Minotauromachie and in the print series entitled The Metamorphoses of Ovid and the Suite Vollard. In works from the Vivanco Collection from the 1950s and 1960s the Bacchic universe is also a recurring theme as an expression of human passions. Represented here by an etching from the 1960s and another from the 1970s, Joan Miró (Barcelona, 1893-Palma de Mallorca, 1983) expressed his work in a graphic style that reveals the influence of Japanese art at this period.

The mid-20th-century Spanish avant-garde, represented by the El Paso and Dau al Set groups, is present in the exhibition with unique works by Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona, 1923-2012) and Antonio Saura (Huesca, 1930-Cuenca, 1998). The Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (San Sebastián, 1924-2002) is present with a print that reflects his style of compact forms and "imprecise geometry". Its title Zapatu ["to press"] subtly relates it to the overall theme of this exhibition.

Roy Lichtenstein (New York, 1923-1997) and Andy Warhol (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1928-New York, 1987), both represented in the exhibition, were two of the leading exponents of American Pop Art of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their influence and a reinterpretation of their artistic principles is to be found in the work of Spanish artists such as Eduardo Arroyo (Madrid, 1937), with his subtly ironic figuration, and Manolo Valdés (Valencia, 1942), who offers his particular vision of the Cubist still-life.

Finally, this section includes some strikingly unique works such as the mezzotints by Yozo Hamaguchi (Hirokawa, Japan, 1909-Tokyo, 2000) and the lithographs by Paula Rego (Lisbon, 1935) and Miquel Barceló (Felanitx, Majorca, 1957).


In the image:
Juan Gris (Madrid, 1887-Paris, 1927)
Nature morte, 1922
Museo Vivanco de la Cultura del Vino, Briones (La Rioja)