"Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection"
The Morgan Library and Museum remains a leader in presenting exhibition of works on paper. While drawings are often a step-child at major museums, exhibitions of drawings are a central focus of The Morgan's calendar of exhibitions each year. It continues in this vien with “Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection,” which presents drawings spanning seven centuries.
The works in the exhibition come from the collection assembled by art dealer, Richard Gray, and his wife, the art historian Mary L. Gray. The collection was developed over some 50 years and is not limited to any one particular school or style. Rather, it is composed of European and American works done between the 15th century and the 21st century. Included are works by artists such as Rubens, Boucher, Degas, Van Gogh, Rubens, Matisse, Picasso, Hockney and Cezanne as well as works by lesser known artists.
Due to the breadth of the collection, deciding how to exhibit it was not a straight forward issue. The Morgan decided against displaying the works chronologically or trying to group then together by school. Rather, it decided to place the works by affinities and relationships so as to show how different artists handled similar topics or problems. To illustrate, the exhibition shows how Henrick Goltizus handled a head wearing an ancient helmet in the 16th century and how Roy Lichenstein handled the same subject in the late 20th century. We see that in creating something new artists often consider what has been done in the past.
Similarly, a drawing of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas has been paired with a drawing by Francois Bucher of a woman leaning on a pedestal. Degas used expressive lines to draw his female figures while Boucher's approach was much more carefully rendered. We see both approaches are valid and can convey emotion albeit different emotions.
In collecting the works, the Grays focused on skill rather than celebrity. Many of the works are not finished drawings. For example, Picasso's “Two Dancers” depicts in pen and ink two members of the Ballet Russe resting after dancing. One can see that Picasso changed the position of one of the dancer's legs and then covered the original leg with cross-hatched shading. Along the same lines, in Annible Carracci's drawing of Hercules, the artists has sketched an additional face and another foot on the sheet. In addition to being visually interesting, such works give a glimpse of the artist's thinking and the creative process.
Most of the drawings are of the human figure, reflecting the fact that the figure has always been a staple of drawing. However, there are some portraits. Notably, the exhibition includes Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s “Comtesse Charles d’Agoult and Her Daughter Claire d’Agoult.” There is also a landscape By Geeorges Seurat in black and white as well as an abstract by Franz Kline.
The works have been gifted to The Morgan and will be part of the museum's permanent collection. “This is a significant addition to the Morgan Library's permanent collection and a very generous gift.” commented Colin Bailey, the Director of The Morgan.
Although beautifully rendered, Giovanni Battista Naldini did not intend this work as a finished work of art. Rather, as the grid lines and the sketch in the margin indicate, it was a study for an image that would be in a finished work.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s “Comtesse Charles d’Agoult and Her Daughter Claire d’Agoult.”
Art review - Morgan Library and Museum - "Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection"