“Can I move the window?” was not a question I thought I’d be asking a few days into my new position as Curatorial Assistant at The Courtauld Gallery. I had been charged with curating a display of works on paper by the Netherlandish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (around 1525-1569) in the Drawings Gallery. This beautiful space has two windows facing onto the courtyard, but clever custom design allows us to cover one or both if additional hanging space is needed. The argument of my proposed display worked best if only the left window remained visible so, after a little trial and error, we changed the wall around, with the help of a bright torch and a magnet to locate hidden screws. The space could then be painted and the works hung.
The display brings together all the works on paper within our collection by Bruegel or once attributed to him. Advances in scholarship have shown that, in addition to autograph works by Bruegel, we are actually in the possession of drawings by three early emulators of the master who were working in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It was important for the display to demonstrate how closely these artists had imitated, and in at least one case outright forged, the master’s work, and so I decided to intersperse these drawings with originals by Bruegel rather than segregate them.
Prints and drawings are stored unframed in standard size mounts, which means we also get to choose frames from our stock. The variety used were selected not only to best complement each work but to deliberately avoid distinction between the four artists. I would encourage you, brave viewers, to ignore the labels and try to establish the master’s hand for yourselves, at least for the first glance. If that fails, you can always join the heated debate of how many mules there are in the exhibition, or try to spot the hidden window.
Rosamund Garrett, Curatorial Assistant.
Bruegel, Not Bruegel
On display until 17 April 2016