French Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 30, 2010

Press release from The Wallace:

Poussin to Seurat: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Scotland
The Wallace Collection, London, 23 September 2010 — 3 January 2011
The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 5 February — 1 May 2011

Catalogue by Michael Clarke, 144 pages, ISBN: 9781906270315, $25

This exhibition is the latest in an ongoing series mounted by the Wallace Collection which features selections from celebrated collections of French drawings. The holdings of French paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland are world famous and include magnificent examples by Claude, Poussin, Watteau, Greuze and many of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Not so well-known, however, is the Gallery’s complementary collection of French drawings. This has been deliberately strengthened over the past thirty years to build on the existing core of fine drawings, many of which came to the Gallery, via the Royal Scottish Academy, from the collection of the Edinburgh bookseller and antiquarian David Laing (1793-1878). Of the more familiar names who have recently entered the collection mention can be made of Poussin, Boucher, Ingres, Corot, Pissarro and Seurat. These acquisitions have been complemented by excellent sheets by lesser-known masters such as Jeaurat, Lancrenon, Hesse and Dulac – thereby ensuring a mix of the familiar and less familiar.

In subject-matter, the exhibition ranges from the courtly art of Fontainebleau in the sixteenth century to the more down-to-earth imagery of the Realists and Impressionists in the nineteenth century. There are preparatory drawings for tapestries and for ambitious Salon pictures, as well as figure studies made in the studio or landscape sketches inspired by study in the open air. Two artist-writers also feature in the selection – Eugène Fromentin, whose most celebrated text is probably Les maîtres d’autrefois, and the novelist George Sand, whose extraordinary invented landscape watercolours anticipate the work of Surrealists such as Max Ernst in the twentieth century.

The selection made for this exhibition, which will also be shown in Edinburgh, has deliberately been chosen so as to relate to the holdings of the Wallace Collection. Accordingly there are drawings by Claude, Watteau, Scheffer, Decamps and Delaroche – masters who are particularly associated with the collecting of Lord Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace. The most celebrated linkage, however, occurs with the inclusion of Poussin’s exceptional preparatory drawing for one of the greatest paintings in the Wallace Collection, the Dance to the Music of Time, the title of which was taken by Anthony Powell for his celebrated series of novels.

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Writing in The Financial Times (24 September 2010), Emma Crichton-Miller explores the growth of the collection in an interview with Michael Clarke, the director of the National Gallery of Scotland. The article is available here»

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