Never heard of the artist Federico Barocci? Don't worry, neither had I until the National Gallery in London launched its current exhibition, 'Barocci: Brilliance and Grace'.
I visited the exhibition last night after reading some rave reviews and I am so glad I did. Crikey, this guy had some talent. The exhibition showcases several of Barocci's impressive altarpieces but for me, and I think most other visitors, the highlights are without a doubt his preparatory drawings. Not only are these drawings beautiful artworks in their own right and executed to a standard many other artists reserve for the final piece, but they also reveal so much about the artist's thought and technical processes. The National Gallery aids this brilliantly, especially in the large, long room of the exhibition, where they placed several of the drawings on a display stand along the centre of the room, so that the viewer can stand in one place facing both preparatory sketch and finished painting and simply tilt their head down or up slightly to take in each version.
I've always felt that this type of exhibition - containing works designed for religious contemplation - sits well in the darker spaces of the Sainsbury Wing and this one is no exception. The fact that Barocci is relatively unknown also meant that the exhibition was in no way crowded when I was there. Together, these qualities made for a very relaxed, contemplative viewing experience. Even the accompanying video (which I usually hate) is well-made and adds an extra informative dimension to the exhibition as a whole.
If you're in London or are able to make the trip, I encourage you to give this show a visit. It's on until the 19th May.