Masters of the Medium
Temporary Exhibitions, Jaffe and Hall Galleries
This exhibition highlights seventy-three works on paper dating from about 1500 to 1920 from a significant collection of nearly three hundred objects by a long lineage of artists, including figure studies by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Hermann Max Pechstein, historical representations by François Boucher and Käthe Kollwitz, landscapes by Allart van Everdingen and Egon Schiele, and portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence and Max Beckmann.
Aside from being significant works in their own right, these drawings often functioned in the creative process as means to another end. Co-curator Carolyn Wood of the Ackland Art Museum explains that "artists of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries typically used drawings as vehicles for exploring and developing their ideas for the designs of commissioned [works] in other media, such as paintings, prints, and sculptures." Particular examples include Jean-Baptiste Greuze's A Violent Family Scene of the 1780s. Specializing in moralizing scenes of bourgeois family emotions, Greuze often composed a friezelike arrangement of figures with theatrical poses and expressions. Executed first in graphite and pen and ink to delineate at least ten figures, this work ultimately depicted only six figures, rendered in black and grey washes, and it represents a fascinating demonstration of the artist's working process and use of different media. Egon Schiele's Seated Woman (1918) in turn reflects this artist's remarkable technique of rendering the human form in outline. There is almost no shading in the image, and he suggests tonality by carefully altering the pressure on the black-colored pencil and by leaving lighter areas of the composition untouched. Both works exemplify the incredibly expressive power of drawings.
Carolyn Wood | T. Barton Thurber