From Botticelli to Van Gogh, the Artist turns to People
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From Botticelli to Van Gogh, the Artist turns to People
Special Exhibition ‘Eyes on Us’ Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London

29(Sat), Jul, 2023

A poster to promote the special exhibition “Eyes on Us: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London.” (Photo: National Museum of Korea)

The National Museum of Korea presents Eyes on Us: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London. 

This exhibition, open from Friday, June 2, 2023, was organized to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. 

Introducing the masterpieces from the collection of the National Gallery for the first time in Korea, this exhibition traces through the master painters’ eyes how the focus of art was shifted from ’religion and God’ to ’people and their everyday lives.’ 

Works of fifty greatest painters of all time—Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Poussin, Velázquez, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Thomas Lawrence, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and Van Gogh—will reveal how objects of artists’ observations were changed over time. 

This exhibition presents paintings from Renaissance—rarely seen in Korea—to Impressionism—beloved by art collectors from all over the world. 

It will explore the history of European art from the fifteenth century to the early twentieth century. 

In the gallery, we have provided additional readings on the major cultural and historical events in the European history, including the Renaissance, Reformation, Grand Tour, French Revolution, and Industrial Revolution to help the understanding of the great artworks. 

View the changes in art through masterpieces

For a long time, religion and God was the dominant theme in European art, but the interest in people and their activities continued to grow. 

In this exhibition, the history of the five hundred years of this change is unravelled in four sections. 

The first section, Renaissance: Gods Descend to Earth, introduces paintings of the Renaissance, when art began to focus on people in the light of ancient Greek and Roman culture. 

Artists studied and scientifically observed the people and their world with their own eyes and represented them in paintings. 

This section includes paintings by some of the most important names of the Renaissance, including Botticelli and Raphael. 

The second section, Divided Churches, Divergent Paths displays the arts of the Catholics and the Protestants side-by-side: the Catholic Church wanted artworks to encourage deep piety in its followers and the Protestants rejected religious art and turned instead to people and their surroundings as inspiration for their art.

This section includes works by prominent baroque painters, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Sassoferrato, whose work was popular in the age of Catholic Counter-Reformation, alongside landscape and still life paintings that became popular in Protestant-dominated Northern Europe.

The third section, A New Focus on the Individual, showcases the paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the continued interest in people turned to each individual. 

The Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789 meant that people became more interested in personal freedom and contentment. 

Now paintings were more than a medium that convey religious and philosophical ideas—paintings were popularly commissioned to celebrate events or as personal souvenirs.

The fourth section, Impressionism: Fleeting Moments, introduces paintings of Impressionism, an artistic movement that started in late nineteenth century France. 

Artists wanted to depict the changing urban landscapes of the modernised city and the people living in it. 

The matter of the subject or how close to nature it was depicted ceased to be a primary concern. 

The artists were now free to express themselves with original compositions and striking colours.

We present this exhibition in the hope that it will provide an insight to the path art took to come into our daily lives. 

Yoon Sung Yong, the Director General of the National Museum of Korea noted that “It is one of our main goals to introduce diverse cultures of the world to the Korean audience. We hope that this exhibition will provide a firsthand experience for many to appreciate splendid masterpieces of European paintings.” 

Please find more information about this exhibition on the NMK website at 

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