|Dates||From 20/05/2003 to 30/09/2003|
THE DRAWINGS DISEASE.
A TERMINAL CASE?
Collecting drawings is a passion, maybe a disease, that unites us whether we are museum curators, private collectors, dealers or just what in the 18th century were called ‘amateurs.’ Let us track back to that great Georgian era of connoisseurship, Britain was then veritably, as Mariette said, the ‘Print Room of Europe’. Great cabinets of drawings were being assembled by King George III, milordi inglesi on the Grand Tour and by a host of artists - stretching back to Lely and through the Richardsons to Reynolds, West, Cosway, Thane and Lawrence. Where have all those artist virtuosi gone? Can one imagine Tracey Emin or Rachel Whiteread putting together a small, carefully selected, collection of drawings? Indeed to an almost frightening extent the British passion for collecting OMDs has shifted across the pond to New York, Chicago, and California.
I have now directed the National Galleries of Scotland for eighteen years and I have yet to meet an active collector of drawings in Scotland. Well, not at least since the death of my old, dear colleague, Keith Andrews. When I directed Manchester City Art Gallery, no-one there except the late lamented Francis Hawcroft ever bought old master drawings. Ralph Holland, quietly operating out of Newcastle University, was the lonely beacon of enlightenment shining out from a veritable wasteland. Cosmopolitan London has always been the exception; elegant collections are still built up here but, more often than not, technically not by British connoisseurs but by intelligent, well informed continental collectors - often without a deep purse - who have modest collections tucked away in their flats. Where, one must ask, are the successors to Sir Brinsley Ford? Where, also the successors to Paul Oppé, Sir Bruce Ingram, Count Antoine Seilern, Baron Hatvany or even Hugh Squire? Sir Denis Mahon, with his wonderful holding of Guercino drawings, now on loan to the Ashmolean Museum, is positively the last of these leviathans.
Recently I was chatting over coffee with one of my colleagues in Edinburgh, Aidan Weston-Lewis. We agreed that, because of different perceived priorities in British museums and galleries, very, very few specialist curators of drawings now operate within the United Kingdom. After London, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool and Edinburgh one is indeed hard put to think of many other specialist drawings curators. There is, of course, the university fraternity but connoisseurship does not seem to fit into the ‘new art history’, which to my mind is often very silly, with all its ludicrous passé gender and marxist agenda.
For us few who adore drawings, it has become here in Britain, a rather sad world. We hear of the brain drain but what about the drawings drain? Britain has lost two Michelangelo drawings in the space of eighteen months and there is not a drawing by him anywhere in Scotland. I collected drawings in my teens as a school boy and had the privilege of meeting generations of collectors and dealers that are all now long gone. At seventeen I had my reader’s ticket at the British Museum Print Room and then, at the Courtauld Institute as an undergraduate, I collected indefatigably. Working in the British Museum Print Room was stimulating but I was there for far too short a time. Sometimes I wonder whether I really should have spent the rest of my career there. After the BM, Manchester City Art Galleries was fun where I was ably assisted by my colleague Martin Royalton-Kirsh, now back in the BM Print Room. Have we really achieved that much in Scotland? Two Raphaels, a Leonardo, a scatter of drawings from Chatsworth, Holkham, and others besides. We have not stemmed the tide of drawings bound for foreign shores. Has our national disease for collecting drawings, lamentably, become terminal? The initiative is now with the London dealers. They now have so much of the knowledge and I really admire them all for their acumen.
SIR TIMOTHY CLIFFORD
Director-General, National Galleries of Scotland
Master Drawings in London will be held from 5th - 11th July 2003. This year four new galleries, Piccadilly Gallery, Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries, Garton & Co. and David Jones Fine Art (UK) Ltd, will be participating in the event.
The event, founded in 2001 by Crispian Riley-Smith, has established an impressive reputation. This is reflected in the increase from 18 to 23 galleries who will participate in the event. The galleries each display a selection of their finest master drawings, with some organizing special exhibitions. Each exhibition differs in style and era, with prices ranging from 2,000 to over 1 million.
Last year, the exhibition of the Maida and George Abrams Collection of Dutch and Flemish drawings at the British Museum coincided with Master Drawings in London. The exhibition coupled with a donation to the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum underlines the close relationship between the trade and museum world.
Highlights at this year's event will include A Standing Male Nude, with Both Arms Raised, 1758-1823 by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, and A Rural Cottage with Figures Seated at a Table Beneath a Trellis, 1697-1768 by Canaletto, both exhibited by Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd.
Trinity Fine Art will be holding a special exhibition presenting the remaining stock of drawings from the Valadier workshop. Since the groundbreaking exhibition at Artemis in 1991, exciting new information regarding this unique family of Roman goldsmiths has been unearthed. Of particular interest are the newly discovered documents, focusing on the key figure of the family, Luigi Valadier (1726-Rome-1785).
Other highlights, from various schools and periods, will include: Two Ladies on the Shore, by James McNeill Whistler, 1834-1903, pastel on paper, shown at The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street. Didier Aaron Ltd. (21 Ryder Street), will be exhibiting; Study of Heads by Gaetano Gandolfi, circa 1790, pen and brown ink on paper, and Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, (5 Ryder Street), will be showing Etudes d'autoportrait by Julio Gonzaliez, 1872-1942, each portrait dated.
THE DRAWINGS DISEASE. A TERMINAL CASE? Collecting drawings is a passion, maybe a disease, that unites us whether we are museum curators, private collectors, dealers or just what in the 18th century were called ‘amateurs.’ Let us track back to that great Georgian era of connoisseurship, Britain was then veritably, as Mariette said, the ‘Print Room of Europe’. Great cabinets of draw... read more »