Indepth Arts News: |
"Visions, Fragments, and Impressions: French
Nineteenth-Century Drawings and Bronzes from the Collection of Herbert and
2000-09-14 until 2001-01-14
Carnegie Museum of Art
The exhibition includes works by masters such as
Paul Cézanne, Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, and
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as many lesser-known French artists. The
60 drawings and 23 bronzes in the exhibition display a variety of styles and
techniques and provide an understanding of the important role of drawing and
sculpture in a historical period that is generally recognized for painting.
Beginning with the period of the Revolution (1789) and continuing throughout
the nineteenth century, many French artists and sculptors were in the
vanguard of political and social change. The public and the press, as well
as artists and critics, took part in an ongoing, spirited public debate
about style, technique, and purpose in the arts. Many artists questioned the
value of depicting traditional themes and protecting conservative ideals of
beauty while ignoring the political upheaval, rapid industrialization, and
class conflict they saw around them.
Drawing became a critical issue in that debate. Some feared that as styles
changed, standards would fall. Drawing skills were highly esteemed and
considered a hallmark of great French Art. A decline in France's collective
drawing skill would thus undermine the country's artistic preeminence. The
invention of photography in the mid-nineteenth century complicated the
drawing debate even further, and many people, not just artists and
sculptors, expected the role of traditional drawing in the visual arts to be
Visions, Fragments and Impressions: French Nineteenth-Century Drawings and
Bronzes from the Collection of Herbert and Carol Diamond shows the range of
techniques and styles in drawing and sculpture, and sometimes reveals the
artist's purpose or intent. For example, Bathing Woman (c. 1825) a graphite
drawing on prepared paper by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, was probably a
preliminary study for a later painting. Others, like a chalk and pastel
work by Jean-François Raffaëlli, Man in the City's Outskirts (c. 1885), were
intended to be finished works. Some drawings served as aids to memory, such
as the pen and ink sketch by the writer and artist Eugène Fromentin, En
Aouila (c. 1852), which was executed on location in North Africa and later
used to create an illustration for a book.
Edgar Degas was an exponent of the idea that drawing is the basis of great
art and was proud of his collection of other artists' drawings, which
included works by Ingres, Delacroix, and Manet. This exhibition includes
Degas' double-sided drawing Five Studies of a Hand (1856), done early in his
career, which shows the expressive potential of drawing when executed by a
In a similar way, the bronzes in the collection served a variety of
functions. Some were reproductions of larger works, issued in affordable
editions for collectors. One example of such a copy is Henri-Michel-Antoine
Chapu's Thought (c. 1876), which is a reduction of a marble funerary
monument to the Countess d'Agoult. A number of bronzes in the exhibition
are commemorative portrait medallions, such as David d'Anger's Portrait of
Nicolò Paganini (1834), or Alexandre-Louis-Marie Charpentier's Portrait of
Émile Zola, Facing Right (c. 1898).
Linda Batis, associate curator of Fine Arts at Carnegie Museum of Art
organized the exhibition and believes it offers insight into French art and
the practice of collecting as well. The Diamonds are perceptive
collectors. They have the courage to collect in areas where perhaps only a
museum curator might venture, and the result gives us a special appreciation
of the changes that took place in French art and society of that era.
Dr. Herbert Diamond explained why he and his wife, Carol, collect drawings
from this period. In general, French art from the nineteenth century
conveys emotion and social commentary. Those things are expressed even more
clearly in the drawings from that period, Diamond said. Sometimes you can
see the artist's mind at work in a drawing more than you can in a painting.
For example, in Delacroix's Study for the Battle of Poitiers, what appears
at first glance to be a simple sketch of men and horses executed with very
few lines is really a powerful and very focused study of motion.
The Diamonds collect bronzes for some of the same reasons that people did in
nineteenth-century France. In the nineteenth-century, the technology of
making bronzes changed, and many French homes of that era had collections.
Sculpture was gaining in popularity, and collecting bronzes was a way of
bringing an appreciation of sculpture into the home, Carol Diamond said.
Like collectors of that time, she added, We like the permanence of the