Masterpieces of Drawing: Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, November 4, 1950-February 11, 1951

Masterpieces of Drawing: Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, November 4, 1950-February 11, 1951

Masterpieces of Drawing: Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, November 4, 1950-February 11, 1951

Masterpieces of Drawing: Diamond Jubilee Exhibition, November 4, 1950-February 11, 1951

Excerpt

This exhibition of Masterpieces of Drawing, arranged on the occasion of the Museum's Diamond Jubilee or seventy-fifth anniversary, runs concurrently with that of Masterpieces of Painting. The two exhibitions may be regarded as two aspects of one organic whole--Western pictorial art over approximately seven centuries. Where the one displays the artist's work on a grand and monumental scale in a carefully planned and finished state, the other gives the intimate side of the artist's achievement, the quick spontaneous sketch, the vivid study from life or nature, the fascinating groping for ultimate form and design. With drawings we go behind the scenes, as it were, to enter the artist's studio and watch him actually at work.

Artists have always made drawings, though not always for the same reason. There has always been a close connection between graphic art and the manuscript or book: witness the XII century St. John Dictating to St. Bede or the XV century Nativity (Nos. 1 and 24). But other artists beside the illustrator or illuminator, namely the painter, the sculptor, the architect, and printmaker have all found drawing to be an essential tool in their profession. In the middle ages, when the treatment of subject matter was traditional, the painter often possessed a model book or visual dictionary of characteristic and appropriate expressions. The charming little drawings of The Archangel Gabriel and The Virgin Annunciate (No. 4) probably were part of such a work. The XIV century Martyrdom of San Miniato (No. 2) possibly was a modello or finished sample submitted in advance to the church authorities who were commissioning a fresco. The Pollaiuolo drawing (No. 12) may likewise have been a modello for the statue of Francesco Sforza, for which the artist competed against Leonardo.

Drawing is an indispensable part of an artist's education. One recalls Leonardo's precept: "First of all copy drawings by a good master, made by his art from nature and not as exercises; then from a relief, keeping by you a drawing done from the same relief; then from a good model; and of this you ought to make a practice." Likewise the following precept on sketching from life: "You should often amuse yourself, when you take a walk for recreation, in watching and taking note of the attitudes and actions of men as they talk and dispute, or laugh or come to blows one with another . . . noting these down with rapid strokes, thus, in a little pocket book, which you ought always to carry with you. And let this be of tinted paper (that is for silverpoint) so that it may not be rubbed out; (when the booklet is completed) you should change the old for a new one, for these are not things to be rubbed out, but preserved with the utmost diligence. There is such an infinite number of forms and actions of things that the memory is incapable of preserving them; and therefore you should keep these sketches as your patterns and teachers." Thus the practice of drawing and the actual drawings themselves to be studied and copied, play an important role in the art student's training.

Nulla dies sine linea: Never a day without line--that proverb based on Pliny's . . .

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