Hidden on the back of a canvas or scribbled on a piece of paper: scribbles and sketches have always allowed artists, from Michelangelo to Pablo Picasso, to test, explore and thus unleash their creativity.
The Villa Medici, which houses the National Academy of France in Rome, has chosen to invite the public to discover this unjustly little-known side of artistic production through an exhibition bringing together nearly 300 original works that have punctuated the history of creation.
Baptized “Doodle – From Leonardo da Vinci to Cy Twombly”, this unusual assemblage highlights delicious secret gardens that were not originally intended for public view.
This is obvious for the wooden panels of the majestic “Triptych of the Madonna” by Giovanni Bellini, on the back of which are hidden “a whole series of palimpsest drawings which have nothing to do with the front”, explains to the AFP Francesca Alberti, one of the curators of the exhibition.
We can distinguish even the raw wood “a grotesque figure and its two legs (…) in a design that frees itself from its constraints” to indulge in “irony and play”.
“Of the great masters of the Renaissance, we often know paintings, perfectly finished drawings (…) but what we actually show in the exhibition is also a whole series of drawings where the hand of the artist frees himself”, summarizes Francesca Alberti.
These experimental, transgressive, regressive or liberating drawings, which are not subject to the rules and constraints of “official” art, are reminiscent of the freshness of children’s scribbles. Pablo Picasso also said about them: “It took me a whole life to learn to draw like them”.
Another source of inspiration, the graffiti hastily drawn on the walls of our cities: the divine Michelangelo (1475-1564) already had fun in his time imitating the clumsily drawn silhouettes on certain facades of Florence.
Less rigid and more spontaneous, these forms represent the hidden side of the artists’ work, plunging the visitor into the heart of the creative process.
The hanging of the Villa Medici deliberately ignores chronology and happily mixes eras, offering unprecedented connections between the great masters (Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Bernini…) and modern and contemporary artists (Picasso , Dubuffet, Cy Twombly, Basquiat…).
In the wide staircase of the Villa originally intended for the passage of horses, “we have a dialogue between Renaissance drawings and contemporary drawings”, underlines Francesca Alberti by showing a sketch by Pontormo (1494-1557) alongside two “scribbles “made in 1954 in the dark by the American artist Cy Twombly, who died in 2011 in Rome.
In the center of the staircase, she lingers on a Virgin and Child by the Mannerist Taddeo Zuccari (1529-1566) “which breaks down, unravels into a whole series of scribbled lines as if, in fact, the hand of the artist was completely free”.
For her, these sketches and scribbles were “very important” because they allowed “to release the tension accumulated by drawing”. “We also need to free ourselves from drawing to be able to redraw with the same energy,” she explains.
Visitors to the exhibition are themselves invited to unleash their creative instincts in a room whose walls have been painted in anthracite grey. Chalks are made available to them so that they can express themselves without constraints.
The news inspired many of them: the slogans “Putin out!” and “Vive la paix” are next to the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine. Other inscriptions are intended to be more ironic: “The dinosaurs disappeared because no one caressed them, we should not do the same with women”.
(“Scribble/Scarabocchio. From Leonardo da Vinci to Cy Twombly” – Villa Medici, Rome – Until May 22)