The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to present “Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art” through Dec. 31.
Organized by The Blanton, and comprising 58 works drawn primarily from the museum’s Suida-Manning Collection, the exhibition explores the expressive and technical range of French drawing through preliminary sketches, compositional studies, figure studies and finished drawings from the 16th through 19th centuries. Among the artists included are Jacques Callot, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Louis Forain and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen.
“This exhibition is the culmination of a long-term project to study one aspect of The Blanton’s collection, conducted in collaboration with colleagues across UT’s campus and the country,” said Annette Carlozzi, Blanton deputy director of art and programs. “The fresh art historical research and technical analysis it yielded adds to our understanding of some of the major figures of the period, their working methods and techniques, and the production of art during these centuries of innovation and revolution.”
“Storied Past” is particularly strong in examples from the 17th and 18th centuries — a period in which the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) in Paris became one of the most dominant cultural and political institutions in Europe. The 1666 founding of its affiliated institution in Rome, the Académie de France (French Academy), provided French art students an opportunity to study and to absorb classical art and architecture. There, the formal and very rational French aesthetic soon became infused with the more passionate and emotional sensibilities of the Italians — a style that came to be known as Italianate. Included in the exhibition are several such examples by Charles-Joseph Natoire (who served as director of the French Academy in Rome from 1751-55), Jean-Honoré Fragonard and others.
The social and political landscape of 19th century France is examined through the work of Théodore-Alexandre Steinlen, Jean-Louis Forain and others. During this period of industrial and artistic transformation, French artists abandoned idealism and classical iconography for a more realist approach. Scenes of everyday life were favored over the religious and heroic scenes of the previous generation.
The “Storied Past” of the exhibition title refers not only to the narrative subjects favored by French artists but also to the individual stories of the objects themselves. Extensive research by curators and conservators has shed new light on the drawings, many of which have never before been published. Works thought to have been lost were newly identified and others reattributed, contributing significantly to the scholarship of this genre.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Cheryl Snay, curator of European art, Snite Museum of Art; Jonathan Bober, former Blanton senior curator of European art; and Kenneth Grant, paper conservator, Harry Ransom Center. The catalog will be co-published by Hudson Hills Press.