Display | Gainsborough and the Landscape of Refinement

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 4, 2013

As noted at ArtDaily (2 December 2013) . . .

Master Drawings New York | Gainsborough and the Landscape of Refinement
Lowell Libson at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, 24 January — 1 February 2014


Thomas Gainsborough, Figures Resting in Woodland Landscape, signed 1784, 232 x 291 (Lowell Libson)

The exhibition is centered round a group of landscape drawings made by Gainsborough in the last two decades of his life but includes twelve drawings by Gainsborough spanning the full length of his career, from Gainsborough’s earliest recorded landscape study—completed when the artist was only 18—to a preparatory drawing for one of his last ‘Fancy pictures’ A Boy with a Cat, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which was completed the year before his death. Three of the drawings are previously unpublished and exhibited to the public for the first time here.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) was one of the Britain’s greatest artists, famed for his engaging portraits and evocative landscape paintings, he is also universally acknowledged as one of the finest European draughtsman of the eighteenth century. Despite this reputation, there have been very few exhibitions dedicated to Gainsborough’s drawings. These are not topographical works but imagined landscapes which Gainsborough created by drawing models he created using rocks and wood found in his garden and, as one writer noted, ‘distant woods of broccoli.’

Gainsborough was fascinated by a limited number of landscape features—herds of cattle, serpentine roads, clumps of trees and hilly horizons—often obsessively playing with these features time and time again, each time creating completely new works. This creative repetition—or refinement—was given expression in Gainsborough’s fascination with different techniques.

No two drawings in the exhibition are handled in the same way as Gainsborough explored different combinations of chalks, pencil, ink washes and watercolour in each work. Many of the drawings in the exhibition have provenances stretching back to the eighteenth century, one is inscribed as a present from ‘the ingenious artist’ to the daughter of a friend, another was in the collection of the celebrated surgeon, Dr John Hunter, who treated Gainsborough in his final illness. This group is the largest concentration of Gainsborough drawings to be offered by an art gallery since the celebrated exhibition mounted by Knoedler in 1914. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with scholarly entries written by the leading Gainsborough authority, Hugh Belsey.

The exhibition is free and open daily from Friday 24 January to Saturday 1 February, 2014 Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 1018 Madison Avenue, New York. Monday to Saturday, 11–6; Sunday, January 26, 2–6; Tuesday, 28 and Thursday, 30 January, 11–8.

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Press release (15 August 2013) from Master Drawings New York:

Master Drawings New York
New York, 25 January — 1 February 2014


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In a fifteen block stretch of the Upper East Side’s ‘Gold Coast’ in New York, close to 30 of the most acclaimed international dealers in master drawings will show the latest artworks entering the market during the eighth edition of Master Drawings New York, January 25th through February 1, 2014 with a Preview Friday January 24th from 4 to 8pm. Timed to coincide with New York’s major January art-buying events, including the Old Master auctions and The Winter Antiques Show, Master Drawings New York includes top dealers from the US as well as the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. Originally conceived as an annual walkthrough, Master Drawings New York has grown into a ‘must see’ event with a number of New York dealers making their galleries available to their overseas colleagues for the week.

Master Drawings New York has received strong support as its range and influence has grown each year. Critics applaud the fact that the artworks on view cut across the full range of styles, centuries, mediums, and genres and provide pricing options that are attractive both to seasoned and new collectors. Dealers show important pencil, pen and ink, and chalk and charcoal drawings, as well as oil on paper sketches and watercolours.

New York Old Masters specialist Margot Gordon and London dealer Crispian Riley-Smith jointly founded the New York event in 2006 and are delighted to see how well it has matured, with top tier dealers offering an incredibly diverse array of artworks created between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries.

Gordon says, “As an art form master drawings are unique because they represent the very first creative spark of the artist. You are invited to enter the artist’s mind and share his passion. It’s a strong motivator to those who love art and care about possessing the very first thoughts of the artist.”

“Master Drawings New York has become very special to both private and institutional clients because it makes it convenient to see a number of exhibitions from the very top tier of world dealers in a single area of the city and close by other venues they need to visit,” Riley-Smith adds. “For those interested in learning more about the quality and range of drawings on offer, there’s simply no better way to expose yourself to the very finest examples.”

Gordon admits that, “Some visitors to our shows are surprised to see that not all our drawings date to the early centuries. We have several dealers who specialize in twentieth-century works. In fact, our members display everything from Medieval illuminations to preparatory studies by Raphael, to Picasso sketches. We particularly love the fact that curators, museum patrons, private collectors, and the press all get to see the newest market offerings of each form at one time. It’s a model that works similarly well with our sister event in London each June, London Art Week, which also incorporates top dealers in master drawings.

“With our format, dealers get to put their individual stamp on their own exhibitions and can entertain their private and museum clients as they like. We stage Private Previews for our clients the day before Master Drawings New York officially begins. This year that will be Friday, January 24, from 4 to 8pm.”

With such a wide range of options on offer, Gordon and Riley-Smith point out that drawings and watercolours represent a wonderful collecting opportunity, especially to those forming a new collection. Price points range from several thousand dollars to several million.

In previous years, noted experts on the subject have contributed to the brochure, including William Griswold, Director The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; Cara Dufour Denison, Curator Emerita Drawings and Prints at The Morgan; Linda Wolk-Simon, the Charles W. Englehard Curator and Department Head Drawings and Prints, The Morgan Library; Rhoda Eitel-Porter, former Curator and Department Head; Isabelle Derveaux, Curator Modern and Contemporary Drawings, The Morgan Library; Rick Scorza, Thaw Senior Fellow Morgan Drawing Institute; and Margaret Holben Ellis, Eugene Thaw Professor of Paper Conservation and Director, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and Director, Thaw Conservation Center Morgan Library & Museum.

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