This exhibition celebrates drawing as an expression of the beauty, vigor, and ephemerality of life. With extraordinary works by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Ludovico Carracci, Peter Paul Rubens, François Boucher, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and others, it charts a history of European and American drawing from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.
The drawings on view are from the collection of Chicago-based art connoisseurs Richard and Mary L. Gray. The Grays’ keen and independent aesthetic sensibility led them to acquire many exquisite works by marvelous lesser-known artists whose work sheds new light on the fascinating and complex evolution of subject matter and style. The Gray Collection is especially rich in Italian drawing, enabling a focus on several Italian cultural centers—Rome, Bologna, and Venice—during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. A highlight of the Italian works is a group of exquisite red chalk drawings from the seventeenth century that captures the unique ability of this medium to express the sensual nuances of the human form.
Proceeding in loosely chronological order, beginning with works from the Renaissance, the exhibition suggests how social, political, and cultural changes impacted the development of European and American art. While frequently reflecting the cultural power of the Catholic church and occasionally touching on specific historical incidents, the works in the Gray Collection are, for the most part, intimate encounters with the human form and, by extension, with humanity itself.
This presentation marks the donation of fifteen drawings from the Gray Collection to BAMPFA. This transformative gift brings new depth and breadth to the museum’s already strong holdings of Old Master and modern drawings. These works will provide enjoyment and inspiration to visitors, scholars, and students for years to come.