JE hosts art exhibit of the Pergamon Altar



For the next two months, visitors to the Jonathan Edwards Master’s House can see something not normally found inside a Yale building: a 400-foot altar.

The exhibit, “From Portraits to Pergamon: The Art of Rob Anderson,” features charcoal drawings of the “Great Frieze” of the Pergamon Altar, a 2,000-year-old marble sculpture, and opens its doors Thursdays until May 29.

The Pergamon Altar is a 400-foot-long sculpture in northwest modern-day Turkey. It depicts gigantomachy, the great battle between the gods and the giants in Greek mythology and art. The battle was finally won by the gods, but only after the mortal Heracles stepped in to help.

Anderson said his interest in the Great Altar at Pergamon began as a child when he visited Berlin’s Pergamon Museum. He became fascinated with the altar and eventually moved to Berlin and, while there, drew many sketches of the altar in preparation.

“A friend invited me to come to Berlin and work in his apartment to do the drawings,” he said. “So how could I have passed that up.”

Other artists soon realized the promise of Anderson’s sketches, Jonathan Edwards Master Gary Haller said, and one private art philanthropist commissioned him to recreate the altar in an oil painting in an area of the benefactor’s home.

Anderson said he began to feel a special attachment to the sculptures after working with them for so long.

“When you spend so much time with something, you get a feeling of its life,” he said. “I really got a feeling for the power of the stones.”

He said he hopes the exhibit will give people a clearer sense of what the stones are about.

“People have said to me ‘you’ve really made me see the sculpture,’” he said. “That’s really what I’m hoping for.”

The idea for the exhibit first came from Joe Gordon, a friend of Anderson’s who suggested the exhibit to Haller. Haller said his interest in the exhibit was twofold.

“The drawings add a scholastic dimension that we don’t get outside of art history. It’s relation to Hellenic studies was an attractive aspect,” he said. “I like all kinds of art, but my passion is figurative realism. This is the kind of art I generally like.”

The exhibit also features some of Anderson’s other works, including oil paintings, and many works using the human form, a topic of particular interest to Anderson.

“The question was ‘Wow to make it representative?’” Haller said.

The Pergamon drawings are in the living room of the house, with the other works on display in the hallway and reception rooms.

Anderson is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and his work has been featured at the Pergamon Museum In Berlin, and in North Dakota. His work is in the public collections of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Gay and Lesbian History Archives of the San Francisco Public Library.

In addition to the exhibit, Anderson was the guest at a Master’s Tea called “A Conversation with Rob Anderson on Light, Flesh, and Form,” Thursday afternoon in the Jonathan Edwards master’s house and a reception that evening after the tea.

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