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"Old Master Drawings from the Albertina, Vienna"
2002-09-07 until 2002-11-10
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Sydney, , AU Australia

The Albertina in Vienna forms part of the city’s historic Hofburg complex, the heart of which is the former Imperial Palace - seat of the Habsburg dynasty in Central Europe. Albert, Duke of Saxe-Teschen (1738-1822), after whom the museum is named, assembled his renowned collection of master drawings during the latter part of the 18th century. Collecting fine works has continued since Duke Albert’s death, and today the museum is regarded as one of the world’s largest and most valuable repositories of graphic art.

While extensive restoration at the Albertina is undertaken, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit a glorious pageant of 100 works that reflect the breadth and quality of Duke Albert’s original collection. The exhibition tells the unfolding story of the art of drawing in Europe across three centuries, from the Italian High Renaissance to the French Rococo period. Artists include Raphael, Fra Bartolomeo, Durer, the Carracci, Rubens, Goltzius, Boucher, Fragonard and many others.

Such a concentrated panorama of masterworks allows us to understand how the art of drawing has been reworked and revitalised by innovative artists generation upon generation. These fragile, intimate works still hold a special fascination today. Encountering Old Master drawings such as these we can feel, sense and experience with an extraordinary immediacy the touch and vision of the artist. A drawing is, after all, the birth of a creative idea expressed with all the spontaneity of the artist’s genius, said Edmund Capon, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Albert grew up at the Saxon court in Dresden, the eleventh child of Frederick Augustus II, Prince Elector of Saxony. In 1766 he became a member of the House of Habsburg through marriage to the favourite daughter of the Empress Maria Theresia. Thanks to his wife’s considerable dowry, Albert was able to pursue his passion for the art of drawing and soon he began systematically collecting on a grand scale. A figure of the Age of Enlightenment in every respect, Albert set about the ambitious and far-sighted task of building, as a legacy to posterity, a collection which would be comprehensive in its representation, chronologically ordered and fully catalogued. Continually growing through new acquisitions, the Albertina currently holds more than 65,000 drawings and more than 1 million prints in its collection.

Conceived by the Albertina, this exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales is devised as a series of chronologically arranged chapters dealing with the most significant periods and styles while emphasising strong regional particularities. Together, these chapters form a compelling historical sweep and showcase, through the highest calibre of draughtsmanship, the development of the European drawing tradition.

Peter Paul Rubens
Portrait of Suzanna Fourment.
Coll. Albertina, Vienna

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