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Parthenon Exhibit Opening

An Archeologist's Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab


The Parthenon Museum is pleased to announce the opening of An Archaeologist's Eye on January 13, 2018. The exhibition of drawings by Dr. Katherine Schwab explores the metopes of the ancient Parthenon and will continue through May 6.

Metope is the architectural term for the square spaces in a Doric frieze, usually decorated with high-relief sculpture. On the Athenian Parthenon, the metopes told the story of four significant battles and are considered an important aspect of the overall sculpture program of the temple. In an effort to develop a new method for recording these badly deteriorated sculptures the American art historian and archaeologist Katherine A. Schwab began experimenting with graphite and pastel on paper in 2005. Her new technique has contributed to the larger understanding of the east and north metope series, which illustrate mythic battles: the Olympian gods versus giants and the Trojan War respectively. Reproductions of her drawings accompany the labels for the original sculptures in the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, where they assist non-specialist visitors in reading and understanding the damaged reliefs.

Rather than create the standard line drawing, Dr. Schwab focused on shadow, light, shape and form. "Earlier archaeological renderings used lines to denote figures in the Parthenon's metope sculptures," said Dr. Schwab. "These images did not, however, convey important visual information, including the preserved depth of surviving contours of these figures, many of which were severely damaged in the 6th century when the ancient Greek temple was converted to a Christian church." Dr. Schwab's works on paper fill this void while creating an engaging aesthetic and intellectual tension between what is preserved and what has been lost.

The 35-work exhibition opens with 16 pastel and graphite drawings depicting the fight between the gods and the giants for supremacy on Mount Olympus. It continues with 12 graphite drawings of the Sacking of Troy, and concludes with 7 graphite drawings of figures from the frieze and pediments she developed to help visualize the metope compositions.

Dr. Schwab is a professor of art history in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and curator of the Plaster Cast Collection in the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.

The exhibition was organized by the Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, and Creighton University, with considerable help from the Timken Museum of Art. Parthenon exhibition sponsors include Humanities Tennessee, The Archeological Institute of America, Vanderbilt University, Metro Parks, and the Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park. With generous support from Humanities Tennessee, the Parthenon will feature a series of educational programs focusing on the glorification of war in western art, the effects of war on both people and the built environment, and the role of hairstyle and clothing in projecting identity in ancient Athens.