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Guercino (Cento 1591–Bologna 1666). The Triumph of Galatea, Pen and brown ink with brown wash, squared in black chalk, with later framing lines in pen and brown ink.

Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection, at the Smith College Museum of Art, September 28, 2012 – January 6, 2013(Comments Off on Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection, at the Smith College Museum of Art, September 28, 2012 – January 6, 2013)

December 7, 2012

If you wander around Sotheby’s and Christie’s during old master week with open ears, or if you converse a bit at a conference like the delightful and enlightening symposium held for the inauguration of the present exhibition, you are likely to hear some words about the disappearance of good drawings from the market, the ongoing retirement of dealers, the paucity of new ones to take their place, the scarcity of collectors, the resistance of museum directors and boards to these elitist and esoteric artworks, and, ultimately, the demise of the collecting of old master drawings—whereupon the interlocutors stare into space, as if they were on the deck of the sinking Titanic. If this were true, drawings would always continue to be available to the public and scholars, but the heart of the organism would be dead. The circulation of fresh blood—i.e. drawings—would have ceased.

Old Master Drawings, the successor to The Drawing Site, is now online.

Old Master Drawings, the successor to The Drawing Site, is now online. In it, Michael Miller offers articles about the history of drawing, the history of collecting, a reference work on the materials and techniques of drawing, and a page of news in the world of drawings: exhibitions, lectures, conferences, etc. There is also a retrospective of his work as a dealer in old master drawings as well as a few drawings for sale.

Jorinde Voigt, 55 Views Blue, 2011 , Coloured paper, pencil, ink on watercolour paper, 140 x 200 cm, Galerie Bernd Klüser GmbH, Munich. Collection Florence and Daniel Guerlain, Les Mesnuls.

Le Salon du Dessin 2012 – UPDATE: Jorinde Voigt has won the Contemporary Drawing Prize of the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Art Foundation.

Knowing the Salon du Dessin at first hand, and contemplating its 2012 iteration, I find myself thinking back on on the world of master drawings as it was when I first entered it in 1980 and how it has changed over the years. Attended by over 13,000 people in 2010, the Salon is a large, public event which spans five days. It brings together the larger part of the world’s curators, scholars, collectors, and dealers in the field in a busy, but rarely overcrowded public space, the Palais de la Bourse. One can survey the available stock at the dealers’ stands, attend conferences, lectures, and guided tours, visit exhibitions at the Bourse and at Paris museums, as well as satellite enterprises around the Hôtel Drouot, where drawings can be had at auction, and further afield. There is a wealth of opportunities to learn about drawings, as well as to collect them. In 1980, no one thought that a fair of this size might ever exist in the field, and in its early years, during the 1990s, no one ever thought it would grow to these dimensions.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), The Virgin of the Rocks, 1483 – about 1485, oil on wood transferred to canvas, 199 x 122 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Peintures (777). © RMN / Franck Raux.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, The National Gallery of Art, London, November 9, 2011 – February 5, 2012

The crowds begin as one approaches the rear of the building: a long line, snaking back on itself contains those hopeful of gaining one of the 500 tickets on sale each day; further on, is a smaller queue of the luckier ones who had snapped up all the online tickets during the first three days of sale. Overall, the crowds are well behaved—for this is England—and approach their goal with good humor and a touch of the spirit of Dunkirk as they descend upon the National Gallery’s runaway success, Leonardo: Painter at the Court of Milan. It is not a large show, only some sixty paintings and drawings, but then Leonardo only began a score of paintings in a career spanning four decades. Of those paintings, fifteen autograph works survive, and four of these are generally deemed incomplete. To assemble almost every surviving painting from Leonardo’s Milanese period in London is a notable achievement, and these works are supplemented by others associated with his followers and sometime collaborators in the most sustained period of productivity in the artist’s life.

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