Durer to de Kooning: 100 Drawings from Munich @ the Morgan

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I wrote a little too much for this review, so below you can read the extra describing I did about the pieces from this phenomenal new exhibit at the Morgan.

Read the full review on Woman Around Town here.

Andrea Mantegna, Dancing Muse, c. 1495

Last week the Morgan Library and Museum opened their first fall exhibit featuring 100 drawings by almost as many artists, all on loan from the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, or State Graphic Collection in Munich, Germany. This new exhibit was made possible by an agreement between the two institutions – in 2008 the Morgan sent 100 drawings in their collection to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung as a part of their 250th anniversary celebration. Four years later, 100 drawings from Munich have made their way across the ocean to create Durer to de Kooning, an exhibit that fills both the East and West Morgan Stanley Galleries.

The Staaliche Graphische Sammlung has a collection of 400,000 works that began in the 1750s, growing over time until it was moved to Munich in 1794 for protection from approaching French revolutionary forces. German kings continued to add to the collection and it was opened to the public in 1823, becoming an independent museum in 1874. It was the only art institution that remained open during World War II, until July 12, 1944 when the building was bombed and almost a third of the collection was lost. But it only continued to grow in the twentieth century, adding a number of German Expressionist works and more modern and contemporary drawings, which still remains the collection’s largest and fastest growing genre.

Beginning at the High Renaissance in Italy, the artists represented are instantly recognizable, to the point where it seems as if some pieces were chosen based on name alone.
The drawing by Leonardo da Vinci seems a little out of place.


Matthais Grunewald,
Study of a Woman with her Head Raised in Prayer

It looks like it came straight from an engineer’s notebook and all the pieces surrounding it are sketches of religious scenes.
Still, the names are impressive, and being able to see the actual handwriting and sketches of all these ancient artistic masters feels more intimate than standing before finished portraits and paintings. A few of the works have placards that even include an image of the finished painting, revealing the artist’s thought process as he worked out compositional arrangements and the orientation of the figures.

The first work to include the finished painting counterpart is Andrea Mantegna’s Dancing Muse. Completed around 1495, it features a young woman dressed in flowing, flying wrinkled dress with her hair parted down the middle and tied back; her arms teased behind her back as well and her body twisted and on her toes like she’s dancing in the wind. Drawn in pen and brown ink plus brown wash and heightened with white, the brown-gray paper the figure rests on is aged and near crumpling. Her ankles are fading away on the edge of the paper and her dress looks Greek and ancient, as if this could have come from thousands of years ago instead of hundreds. This ancient muse is only one character of many in the finished painting, shown in the placards as a detail of Parnassus, a tempera painting now in the Louvre.


Leonardo da Vinci,
Mechanism for Gold Processing, before 1495

Vincent Van Gogh’s View of Arles Across the Rhome features a typical Van Gogh scene through an atypical lens, his thick gobs of paint traded in for pen and brown ink hatching. A town can be seen across the water, a bridge connecting it to what’s across the way, and a shadowed figure in a boat is rowing in the water before us. While traveling in Arles, France, Van Gogh had to save money on materials and so turned to drawing, and this work shows his drawing style’s turn towards more rapid, fluid strokes.

Read the rest of my review here on Woman Around Town >>

Vincent van Gogh, View of Arles on the Rhone River, c. 1888
Francis Picabia, Mask and transparence, 1925

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