Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), who came from Cento near Bologna and was called "Il Guercino" by his contemporaries because of his squint, is one of the most important artists of the Italian Baroque era. In the course of his career as an artist, Guercino moved from a dramatic early oeuvre in which a striking chiaroscuro prevailed to the classically serene style of his mature period. His art is therefore a unique combination of the two poles between which Baroque painting in Italy hovered.
Guercino was not only a great painter, however, he was also one of the most gifted draughtsmen of his time. With a supreme mastery of the technical means at his disposal, he captured with great subtly the ambience surrounding the depicted motif - be it a dramatic story which he recorded on the sheet in a sweeping line, or the play of light and shadow in his chalk or charcoal crayon figure studies.
The Uffizi houses one of the world's largest and most important collections of drawings by Guercino. The exhibition in Bern comprises a selection of 50 sheets from all periods of his oeuvre and all genres - figure and compositional studies, landscape and genre scenes - and 42 drawings by his workshop staff and successors. In addition to many well-known masterpieces the exhibition also includes numerous sheets that have as yet never been published or shown.
In order to give the local viewers an impression of the artistic context, the exhibition in Berne will be complemented by a small selection of drawings by those Bolognese artists who influenced Guercino, namely, Ludovico and Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni and Domenichino. Examples of two or three paintings that have a bearing on the drawings in the exhibition will also provide an impression of Guercino's painterly oeuvre.
That this exhibition can be shown at the Kunstmuseum Bern
after its presentation in Florence is a stroke of luck for the Swiss viewer. It is actually the first monographic exhibition of works by Guercino to be held in Switzerland.