Saturday, June 1, 2013

Master Drawings from the Smith College Museum of Art

Master Drawings from the Smith College Museum of Art was on view at The Frick Collection through August 12, 2001, before traveling to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where it was on view from October 16, 2001 through January 6, 2002. The exhibition was organized by the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.

The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts, is widely acknowledged to have one of the most important college art collections in America, and one of its extraordinary strengths is its renowned collection of master drawings. New York audiences had the opportunity to view a superb selection of these works on paper - spanning some six centuries of draftsmanship - when Smith lent an important selection of these works to The Frick Collection, the only North American venue on an international tour.

Master Drawings from the Smith College Museum of Art

Images clockwise from the top left:

A Faun Carrying a Basket of Grapes. (1747). Natoire, Charles Joseph. red chalk heightened with white chalk on brown antique laid paper. 14 7/16 x 9 1/4 inches.

A Monumental Stair Hall. (c.1900s). Bibiena, Giuseppe Galli. pen and dark brown ink with brush and grey ink over black chalk. 11 1/2 x 7 9/16 inches.

Chrysanthemum. (c.1921-1925). Mondrian, Piet. black and brown chalks with stumping on gray laid paper. 24 3/4 x 15 1/8 inches.

The Commemoration (L’Anniversaire). (1886). Fantin-Latour, Ignace Henri. black crayon with white heightening, the composition bordered by a ruled framing line in black crayon, on beige tracing paper. 25 1/4 x 19 inches.

The exhibition featured sixty-eight sheets. Numerous European and American artists and subjects are represented, arranged chronologically from a late 15th-century Netherlandish silverpoint portrait attributed to Dieric Bouts to the mid-20th-century abstract watercolor "Echo" by American Mark Tobey. Media and degree of finish vary greatly, from the cursory graphite sketch of Jacques-Louis David's dramatic "The Sabine Women" (c.1795-96) to the exquisite contrast between colors and textures seen in James Jacques Joseph Tissot's highly finished gouache and watercolor "Young Woman in a Rocking Chair" (1873).

Among the other artists represented in the exhibition are Northern European masters Matthias Grünewald, Jan van Goyen, Adoph von Menzel, Piet Mondrian, and Paul Klee. Italian artists include Fra Bartolommeo, Rosso Fiorentino, Federico Barocci, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Francesco Guardi. Represented are many artists who worked in France, among them Jean-Honoré Fragonard, François Boucher, Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Théodore Géricault, Edgar Degas, James Tissot, Pierre-August Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Georges Pierre Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Featured English masters include Paul Sandby, Thomas Gainsborough, Aubrey Beardsley, and Henry Moore, while Elihu Vedder, Maurice Prendergast, Charles Burchfield, Arthur Dove, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman are among the Americans.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast
St. John's, Newfoundland 1858-1924
New York South Boston Pier, 1896
18 1/4 x 14 (46 x 35.4 cm.)
Brush and watercolor and graphite on wove paper
Smith College Museum of Art,
Purchased, Charles B. Hoyt Fund, 1950
Photograph: Stephen Petegorsky

Smith College was founded in 1875 to instruct young women in various fields including the Useful and Fine Arts, as set forth in the will of Sophia Smith, the benefactor of the institution. Drawing was a cornerstone of art studies at Smith, and in keeping with standard art instruction practices of the day, students learned by copying from paintings and sculptures by the great masters. Most of the works of art procured early by the college were acquired for this specific purpose. Over the years, philosophies changed, and they began to be acquired for their own merits. Today, the collection contains substantial holdings of works on paper, with more than 1,700 drawings, 10,000 prints, and 5,800 photographs.


An exciting array of artistic styles awaits the reader in this impressive catalog of 86 selections from the Smith College collection. Smith curators Sievers, Muehlig (who edited the related catalog Masterworks of American Painting and Sculpture from the Smith College Museum of Art, LJ 2/15/00), and Rich have produced an extremely well-researched and illustrated publication.