by Tony Moore
If you happen to be in New York City, love art and feel like doing something unforgettable, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibition running through Feb. 12 that might be of interest. It’s called Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, and as Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Met, says in a press release, "This is an exceptionally rare opportunity to experience first-hand the unique genius of Michelangelo.”
Raising the bar—especially in terms of offering a “rare opportunity”—Professor of Art History Melinda Schlitt recently guided a group of Dickinson alumni through an all-access private tour of the exhibit. And if Weiss’s testimony wasn’t enough, here’s what Schlitt has to say: “An exhibition of Michelangelo's drawings of this scope and depth will never happen again, and it presents an ideal opportunity to extend Dickinson's educational mission and reach at the highest level."
The exhibition comprises three marble sculptures, the artist's first painting, a wood architectural model created for a chapel vault and, most notably, 133 of Michelangelo's drawings, representing the largest group of original drawings by Michelangelo ever assembled for public display. Schlitt, an internationally recognized scholar of Italian Renaissance art and William W. Edel Professor of Humanities, arranged the private tour of the exhibition through Weiss, a friend, colleague and graduate school classmate from Johns Hopkins University. And alumni in attendance were effusive about both Schlitt and the experience.
“Saturday was very special, and the exhibition is overwhelming,” says Don Nagle ’76, CFO of the Asia Society, who with wife Cindy Stites ’77 hosted the New York City stop on President Margee Ensign’s Useful Education for the Common Good Tour. “With Melinda as a guide, it was accessible and meaningful. I feel enriched!”
“Professor Schlitt gave a truly inspiring and intimate look into the unique qualities of Michelangelo’s creative process,” says Christopher Sharples ’87, principal at New York-based SHoP Architects. “She explained that what made him stand out above the rest during the Renaissance was his understanding of the human body and how it guided him in all his work. It is this profound understanding of structure that brings these drawings to life. You can see it in every line as he sculpts the form of the body and releases the energy onto the page.”
Schlitt stresses the importance of viewing the works of artists such as Michelangelo in person—everything from the type and quality of paper, the scale, the marks made by the artist and the medium plays a role in understanding the artist’s time and intent.
“To try and understand Michelangelo’s creative process through his drawings, or any artist’s for that matter, one must see the originals,” she says. “Furthermore, having over 130 drawings by Michelangelo in thematic and chronological context in the exhibition allows for a relational understanding not possible in any other forum, as they were borrowed from over 50 different collections.”
Schlitt will be opening up the opportunity to see the works in person again soon, returning to the Met in February with students from her Michelangelo seminar, just a few days before the exhibition closes forever. And it’s likely her students will share Sharples' perspective on the trip and the exhibition.
“It was a wonderful exhibition to see with a group of fellow Dickinsonians,” he says, “and I hope Dickinson will continue to invite professors from campus to share their passion of learning to the greater Dickinson community.”
Learn more about upcoming Dickinson events for alumni.
Published January 23, 2018