The Getty Center
Curator Spotlight Series

This series of lectures focuses on works of art currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. The talks provide new insights into exhibitions, the collection, and issues they raise from the unique perspectives of the curators themselves.

Presentations are free and take place at 3:00 p.m. with opportunities to view the works of art discussed both before and after the talks.

Recently in the series

Serene and Eternal: Turner and Canaletto in Venice and Rome
May 17, 2015
"Venice was surely built to be painted by Canaletto and Turner," wrote the Art Union of London in 1842. Turner himself paid homage to his celebrated predecessor by depicting him in the act of painting a view of the Ducal Palace. Peter Bjorn Kerber, co-curator of the exhibition J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free, discusses how these two artists took radically different approaches to portraying the city on the lagoon as well as the monuments of ancient and modern Rome: while Canaletto delighted in recording the minutiae of architecture and daily life, Turner privileged atmosphere over accuracy.

A Love / Hate Thing: James Ensor and the French Avant-Garde
June 22, 2014
This talk by Scott Allan, associate curator of paintings at the Getty and curator of The Scandalous Art of James Ensor, situates Ensor's groundbreaking art of the 1880s in relation to rapidly accelerating developments in the European avant-garde that were driven largely by French artists, from Courbet, Manet, and Monet to Redon and Seurat. Exhibited in Belgium, particularly in the context of the annual exhibitions of the artists' association Les XX (The Twenty), such artists' work had a profound impact on Ensor, even as he came to resist French models in the interests of a specifically Belgian, and ultimately highly idiosyncratic brand of modern art.

The Dancer Statuette by Paolo Troubetzkoy and the Incredible Life of Countess Thamara Swirskaya
February 2, 2014
Travel back to Paris of the 1910s and Los Angeles of the 1950s as Anne-Lise Desmas, associate curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty Museum, traces the history of a bronze statuette of dancer Thamara Swirskaya by sculptor Paolo Troubetzkoy. Purchased by J. Paul Getty in 1933, the sculpture symbolizes the intersection of Swirskaya's and Troubetzkoy's fascinating lives.

Love, Death, and Metamorphosis: Picturing Classical Myths
January 12, 2014
The colorful myths of Greco-Roman antiquity have fired the imaginations of generations of artists, and challenged their abilities to represent a rich repertoire of extraordinary characters and powerful narratives. Edouard Kopp, associate curator of drawings at the Getty Museum, explores some of the ways in which European artists have pictured classical myths, from the Renaissance to the late 19th century, through a wide range of examples from the Getty collections of drawings, paintings and sculpture. Special attention will be given to the 18th century, the so-called Age of Reason, which saw a shift in the artistic representation of myth, partly as a result of scholarly and philosophical inquiries into the meaning of classical culture.

Murder in the Cathedral! Sensationalism and Monastic Patronage at Canterbury
November 5, 2013
Jeffrey Weaver, associate curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty, provides the social, religious, and artistic contexts for the creation of three series of windows in the Canterbury Cathedral: the Ancestors of Christ series, the narrative theological windows in the choir aisles, and the Becket Miracle Windows in the ambulatory. These windows were part of an extensive glazing campaign begun just a few years after the murder of Thomas Becket in the cathedral in 1170.

The Many Identities of Peter Paul Rubens's Man in Korean Costume: New Perspectives on Old Interpretations
May 1, 2013
Stephanie Schrader, associate curator of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and organizer of the exhibition Looking East: Rubens's Encounter with Asia, surveys and critiques various identities ascribed to the drawing of a man in Korean costume by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, focusing on the contexts of art, religion, trade, and politics.

Of Cauliflower and Crayfish: The High Art of Dining in 18th-Century France
October 25, 2012
In mid-18th-century France, decorative elements on many luxurious tablewares portrayed ingredients of the food contained within. Charissa Bremer-David, curator of Decorative Arts, the J. Paul Getty Museum, explains how the naturalism of these miniature sculptures reflected the broader interests of the Enlightenment as well as the latest culinary developments.

A Parade of Parisiennes
June 21, 2012
Inspired by the Getty's new acquisition of Édouard Manet's Portrait of Madame Brunet, Leah Lehmbeck, associate curator at the Norton Simon Museum, examines Manet's portraits of women across his entire career. From his earliest works, inspired by Goya and Rubens, to later portraits, which harness light and color not unlike his Impressionist colleagues, Manet continually returned to portraiture to capture contemporary visions of modern life.

The Four-Legged Muse: Horses in Painting, 1500–1770
June 10, 2012
Horses have inspired painters to undertake an array of pictorial challenges, from the embodiment of intense emotion, to persuasive movement, to remarkable technical mastery in oil, and even profound and intimate truths. Anne Woollett, curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, considers some of the many ways in which artists have been engaged by the eloquent form of their equine subjects.

Degas's Milliners and the Craft of Painting
November 20, 2011
Scott Allan, assistant curator of Paintings, examined Edgar Degas's Les Modistes in the context of the artist's millinery series and the broader social and cultural discourse surrounding the female profession of millinery in late 19th-century France. Degas's works are distinct in their quiet restraint from the popular representations of milliners, often rich in sexual innuendo that circulated in his day. Allan suggests that Degas ultimately identified at a personal level with milliners as practitioners of a highly artful craft.

Handel Next to Tiepolo: Love, Loss and Loyalty in Music and Art
October 16, 2011
Through the eyes of a curator, Peter Björn Kerber explored the relationships between the visual arts, music, and literature. Examining important 18th-century works in the Museum's collection, Kerber illuminated how painters, sculptors, composers, and poets evoke the powerful emotions that continue to define human experience and interaction today.

Stories Stranger than Fiction, Pictures Larger than Life
July 31, 2011
Julian Brooks, associate curator of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, investigated some of the stories and characters behind British watercolor in the 1800s. Brooks focused on artists who pushed the boundaries of watercolor and drawing, including J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Girtin, Edward Lear, D. G. Rossetti, and Aubrey Beardsley. Complemented the exhibition Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings

Books as Beads: Praying the Rosary with Pictures in the Late Middle Ages
May 1, 2011
Extensive illustrations in manuscripts provided medieval viewers with an entry point to their devotions and a focus for their meditations. In this lecture, Kristen Collins, associate curator, Department of Manuscripts, explored the Life of Christ (Vita Christi) tradition in medieval manuscript illumination and prayer. Complemented the exhibition Stories to Watch: Narrative in Medieval Manuscripts

Leonardo da Vinci versus Michelangelo: Battles in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
May 30, 2010
Julian Brooks, associate curator of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, investigated the rivalry between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti, which was precipitated by their commissions in Florence, and the astonishing innovations which resulted. Complemented the exhibition Leonardo and the Art of Sculpture: Innovation and Invention

What Should A Sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci Look Like?
March 24, 2010
Leonardo da Vinci designed and produced sculpture throughout his career, but few of the works have survived. In this provocative lecture, Gary Radke, professor at Syracuse University, discussed how art historians have tried to reconstruct Leonardo's sculptural production, presenting arguments for attributing two previously unrecognized figures to the master. Complemented the exhibition Leonardo and the Art of Sculpture: Innovation and Invention

The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans: Pictorial Treatment in the Realm of the Inanimate
February 10, 2010
Anne Lyden, associate curator of photographs at the Getty Museum, discussed photographs of medieval cathedrals by Frederick H. Evans (English, 1853–1943) and their significance in the Pictorialist movements in Britain and the United States. Evans began pursuing photography in the mid-1880s. Focusing on architecture, he paid particular attention to medieval cathedrals in England and France. His images of York Minster and Ely Cathedral are among the most renowned architectural renderings in the history of photography. Complemented the exhibition A Record of Emotion: The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans

Collecting for the Public: Ten Years of Paintings Acquisitions
November 8, 2009
Over the past decade, the Department of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum has added almost 60 paintings and pastels to the Museum's collection. Scott Schaefer, senior curator of paintings, discussed many of these works, focusing on their art historical significance, why they were chosen, and how they enrich the collection as a whole.

Lacquer without Borders
October 7, 2009
The Museum's collection includes nine pieces of French furniture dating to the mid-18th century that incorporate panels of Asian lacquer as part of their surface decoration. Recently, Museum conservators have collaborated with scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute to pursue a research program focused on these extraordinary objects. The results have been surprising, intriguing, and, at times, even startling. Arlen Heginbotham, associate conservator of decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Michael Schilling, senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute, described lacquered furniture and then presented, in layman's terms, the wide variety of scientific techniques they have used to unravel the history of objects in our collection.

Rococo Masterpieces in Context: James Pascall, London Frame-maker, Carver, and Designer
June 3, 2009
The suite of early Rococo furniture made in 1745–46 for the picture gallery at Temple Newsam, a historic country house near Leeds, England, is astonishing both in its extent and its sculptural quality. Anthony Wells-Cole, former senior curator at Temple Newsam, explored the context for which this remarkable furniture was made, investigated the genesis of its design, and described how he restored the great room to which it has been returned. Complemented the exhibition Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts.

In Focus: Portraiture and Photography
May 13, 2009
Following the invention of photography in 1839, portraiture became accessible to a larger public. Continuing technical improvements enabled the instantaneous capture of likeness and expanded the dialogue between the photographer and the sitter. Anne Lacoste, assistant curator of potographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, surveyed the evolution of the genre from studio portrait to site portrait as document. Complemented the exhibition In Focus: The Portrait

Sacred Art and Ritual Display in German Manuscript Illumination around the Year 1000
March 25, 2009
The Ottonian Empire (ruled by a succession of emperors named Otto) held sway for little more than a century, yet left behind a lasting artistic legacy. This culture, whose emperors were seen as God's representatives on earth, produced sumptuous examples of manuscript illumination. Kristen Collins, associate curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explored these richly illuminated objects against the backdrop of art and ritual in the Ottonian church and state. Complemented the exhibition German and Central European Manuscript Illumination

Unfinished Paintings: Artists, Collectors, and the Non Finito
February 18, 2009
The study of unfinished paintings informs the artist, art historian, and conservator in many different, fascinating ways. In the inaugural talk in the Curator Spotlight Series, David Bomford, associate director of the Getty Museum, showed striking examples of paintings that were never completed in order to discuss how unfinished paintings can reveal an artist's intention, why a painting might have been left unfinished, and what constitutes "finish" in painting.

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