Monday, February 11, 2013

"Durer to de Kooning" Master Drawings at the Morgan Library

It was a pleasure to view the “Durer to de Kooning, 100 Master Drawings from Munich” exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York.  The Morgan is a wonderful, intimate museum and often features master drawings exhibitions.

Those of you who follow my blog known I have a passionate interest in master drawings.  I enjoy looking, studying and copying them.  I enjoy using master drawings techniques in my work. Since I have been using pen, ink and wash, charcoal, and red chalk as of late I decided to focus on drawings in the exhibition that utilize these materials.

All the drawings in this exhibition were truly masterful and compelling in their own way.  The ones I was most attracted to were done in a rapid visualization style and showcase an energetic rather than meticulous style.   Jacopo Pontormo’s (1494-1557) red chalk drawing Two Standing Women, (1530) is stunning for its sense of animation and confident three dimensional rendering.  I love the way Pontormo suggests the fluidity of the gowns without over rendering.  This short hand of line allows the viewer to wonder and speculate about who these women are.

                 Red chalk drawing Two Standing Women by Jacopo Pontormo, 1530.

Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), whose anatomical drawings I have long admired, surprised me with this dynamic pen and ink and wash portrayal of Age of Bronze: Design for a Mural in the Pitti Palace, (1641). As you can see from the finished fresco, Cortona worked out many of the compositional elements in this initial sketch.  A pentimento by Cortona can be seen in the upper right hand corner.

                       Pen and ink drawing Age of Bronze by Pietro da Cortona, 1641.

                            Fresco Age of Bronze by Pietro da Cortona, 1641.

Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) pen, ink and brush drawings have an energy mirrored by his brushstrokes and layering of paint!  In his rapid sketch Saskia Lying in Bed, A Woman at Her Feet (1638) the focus is on Saskia (Rembrandt's wife) and her contemplative facial expression.  She is drawn with delicate, decisive pen lines, while the bedroom and maid are loosely described with swift brushstrokes.

 Pen, ink and brush drawing, Saskia Lying in Bed, A Woman at Her Feet by Rembrandt, 1638. 

The pen and ink drawing Adoration of the Magi (1610) by Jacques Bellange (1575-1616) displays lively networks of hatched and crosshatched lines, which draw the viewer’s eye around this forceful drawing! 

         Pen and ink drawing, Adoration of the Magi by Jacques Bellange, 1610.

I wish I could share all 100 drawings with you!  I highly recommend the exhibition catalog by William M. Griswold and Michael Semff. And an excursion to the Morgan Library, always a delight!

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