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Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections

Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections

Stein, Perrin, and Mary Tavener Holmes
256 pages
239 illustrations
9 x 12 in
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"The first dream, the first germ, the first conception" was how in 1894 the renowned connoisseur Philippe de Chennevières, whose celebrated collection of drawings numbered in the thousands, chose to describe the essence and appeal of this medium. For this nineteenth-century French aesthete, only a small number of refined individuals had a true appreciation of these highly personal jottings and studies. Since his time, however, the ranks of connoisseurs of eighteenth-century French drawings have grown steadily, not only in France but in the United States as well.

The Enlightenment in France was marked by progress and innovation in virtually every area of intellectual and artistic endeavor. With the influential writings of Voltaire and Rousseau and the political challenges that led to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and the founding of the French Republic, the eighteenth century is often seen as laying the foundations of the modern era. The far-reaching intellectual and cultural aspirations of the eighteenth century found one form of expression in the draftsmanship of the age. In a period that valued inspiration over rote, drawing—perhaps more than any other artistic medium—embodied the creative impulse. Painters, sculptors, and printmakers were attracted to the medium of drawing, not just for its practical utility but as a vehicle for the expression of individual genius.

Arranged chronologically and thematically, Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections traces the expansion of the Rococo style through the accomplishments of its most brilliant practitioners and through its gradual displacement by the more spartan Neoclassical idiom, which accelerated during the political upheaval of the Revolution and its aftermath. An intimate window into the creative process, the medium of drawing in the eighteenth century gained a devoted following of connoisseurs who began to collect, document, and treasure the graphic output of their contemporaries, a pursuit carried on through the centuries and continued with enthusiasm by public institutions and private collectors in New York today. This volume, and the exhibition for which it serves as the catalogue, attempts to strike a balance between a broad representation of the acknowledged masters of the period—Watteau, Boucher, Natoire, Fragonard, Robert, Greuze—and talented but lesser-known artists, including Doyen, Drouais, and Isabey. The one hundred sheets included, many of them previously unpublished, present a broad range of subjects—from genre, still life, and portraiture to studies for history painting—and are drawn from the holdings of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pierpont Morgan Library, Cooper-Hewitt Museum (Smithsonian Institution), The Frick Collection, and twenty-seven private collections.

The Stalled Procession, Claude Gillot  French, Point of brush with gouache and red wash, over pen and black ink underdrawing, on prepared white laid paper
Claude Gillot
Ladies Bathing, Claude Simpol  French, Pen and gray ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white, over traces of graphite, contours incised.
Claude Simpol
Bernard Picart
A Picnic Party, Claude Simpol  French, Pen and gray ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white, over traces of graphite, contours incised.
Claude Simpol
Bernard Picart
Standing Savoyarde with a Marmot Box, Antoine Watteau  French, Red and black chalk
Antoine Watteau
ca. 1715
Study of a Nude Man Holding Bottles, Antoine Watteau  French, Black, red, and white chalk.
Antoine Watteau
ca. 1715–16
Landscape with an Old Woman Holding a Spindle, after Domenico Campagnola, Antoine Watteau  French, Red chalk; framing lines in pen and brown ink
Antoine Watteau
Domenico Campagnola
ca. 1715
The French Comedians, Antoine Watteau  French, Oil on canvas
Antoine Watteau
ca. 1720
Man Leaning on a Wall (recto), Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater  French, Red chalk heightened with white, on blue paper
Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater
early 18th century
Study of a Valet Pouring Wine, François Le Moyne  French, Red Chalk
François Le Moyne
ca. 1723
The Fortune Teller, François Boucher  French, Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, watercolor, and gouache, over black chalk underdrawing
François Boucher
ca. 1725-28
The Road from Versailles to Louveciennes, Alfred Sisley  British, Oil on canvas
Alfred Sisley
probably 1879
Seated Draped Figure, François Le Moyne  French, Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper.
François Le Moyne
early 18th century
Alexander and Porus, François Le Moyne  French, Brush and brown wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, on blue paper. All four in curved corners have been filled in.
François Le Moyne
early 18th century
Allegorical Figure of Painting, Charles Antoine Coypel  French, Black, white, and touches of red chalk on blue paper; squared in black chalk
Charles Antoine Coypel
early 18th century
The Ascension of Christ (recto); Head of a Bearded Man Looking Down (verso), Pierre Charles Trémolières  French, Black chalk and charcoal, stumped, heightened with white, on gray-blue paper (recto); black and red chalk, charcoal, stumped, heightened with white (verso)
Pierre Charles Trémolières
ca. 1737
Flowers in a Silver Caster, Fruit in the Foreground, Jacques André Portail  French, Watercolor, over traces of graphite
Jacques André Portail
18th century
View in the Gardens of Arcueil, Jean-Baptiste Oudry  French, Charcoal, stumped, black chalk, heightened with white chalk, on blue-green paper
Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Self-Portrait, Jean Marc Nattier  French, Black chalk, heightened with white, on brown paper; verso: faint white chalk sketch of a male figure
Jean Marc Nattier
ca. 1730
Scene of Military Life: A General Giving Orders, Charles Parrocel  French, Red chalk, over traces of graphite
Charles Parrocel
La Conversation espagnole, Carle (Charles André) Vanloo  French, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over black chalk
Carle (Charles André) Vanloo
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View Citations

Stein, Perrin, and Mary Tavener Holmes. 1999. Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.