New exhibition! "The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art"


October 11, 2012-January 18, 2013
Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University

First ever in-depth exhibition in Connecticut of Dahesh Museum of Art's important drawing collection

Image: Bonnat paintingFairfield University's Bellarmine Museum of Art partners with the Dahesh Museum of Art in a new exhibition, "The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art," which opens at the Bellarmine Museum of Art with a free public reception on Thursday, October 11, 2012, 5-7 p.m. The works remain on view through January 18, 2013. This exhibition, which features world-class European drawings, marks the first ever in-depth exhibition of the Dahesh Museum of Art's important drawing collection in Connecticut. Its opening also coincides with the Bellarmine Museum of Art's second anniversary. "The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art" comprises 25 works by famed masters of 19th-century European art, on loan from the Dahesh Museum of Art, which describes itself as "the only institution in the United States devoted to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting works by Europe's academically trained artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries." This exhibition was organized by the Dahesh Museum of Art, New York City. Exhibition sponsors are the National Endowment for the Humanities, Morris Media Group, and Whole Foods Market.

"This visually stunning show is a celebration of the act of drawing in the 19th century," comments Dr. Jill Deupi, founding director and chief curator of the Bellarmine Museum of Art. "It reminds us that rigorous academic training was, for centuries, the cornerstone of Establishment art." Among the works on view - which embrace genres ranging from portraiture to landscape, from history painting to Orientalism - are rare drawings by Lawrence Alma Tadema, Rosa Bonheur, Léon Bonnat, Alexandre Cabanel, Paul Delaroche, Gustave Doré, Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ, and Frederic Lord Leighton. An opening reception, free and open to the public, takes place on Thursday, October 11, 2012, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Exhibition programs include a gallery talk by Bellarmine Museum of Art director Dr. Jill Deupi on Tuesday, November 14, 2012, at 5 p.m.; a guest lecture by distinguished professor of art history Dr. Patricia Mainardi, (Professor Emerita, CUNY Graduate Center; Visiting Professor, New York University) on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, 5 p.m., in Bellarmine Hall's Diffley Board Room, and a series of Saturday afternoon Family Days from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on October 13, 2012; November 10, 2012; and December 8, 2012. Museum galleries will also be open to the general public between noon and 5 p.m. on these same Saturdays. Family Day sponsors are Judith and Richard Conk P' 95, 99, the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Morris Media Group, and Maritime Motors.

"The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art" illustrates the centrality of drawing to artistic practice throughout the 19th century in Europe. A critical tool in any artist's arsenal, drawing served many different ends: as preparatory material for highly finished paintings or prints; as sketches in which artists either conceived of new works or developed nascent ideas; as tangible records of abstract thoughts, expressed in concrete visual terms; as the immortalization of new sources of inspiration, recalling that photography was invented only in the mid-19th century. Endlessly flexible, the act of drawing could be harnessed in the service of elevated classical themes as well as low-brow humor through caricatures or proto-cartoons, in addition to all genres in between. The results could be highly finished, stand-alone works or the loosest of sketches, intended for no eyes other than the artists' own. Whatever the case, the resulting images remain critical cultural and historical documents as well as compelling aesthetic objects. As Dr. Deupi notes, "such works not only reveal a wealth of incredible technical skill, hard won after years and years of strictly disciplined training, but also remind us of the great range of styles and approaches that are possible under the misleadingly corseting label of 'academic art.' These are not rote exercises; they are subjective expressions of a vast array of subjects, all rendered comprehensible through supreme skill, practiced craftsmanship and a clear emphasis on legibility. They are, then, the embodiment of humankind's unique capacity for visual expression, conveying, in some instances, realms that are elevated to peaks of flawless perfection, while in others mirroring for us the world as we know it; warts and all."

Academic drawing in 19th-century Europe was the foundation of both art-training and art-making. Nowhere was this more evident than in Paris, France, home to the famed École des Beaux-Arts, which dates back to 1648 and Louis XIV's Golden Age in France. Like all state-run art academies, of which there were more than one hundred on Continental Europe by the close of the 18th century, this school of the visual arts emphasized the primacy of drawing through a focused curriculum: students first copied from prints and engravings before moving on to renderings of plaster casts after ancient masterworks and finally trying their hands at life-drawing. Such training imprinted deeply on artists, as works in exhibition reveal. Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin's undated "Female Nude," for example, is a preparatory study in which the artist carefully observed not only the female body in motion but also his subject's expression and the related conveyance of emotion. Other preparatory studies include compositional works by Lawrence Alma Tadema and Alexandre Cabanel. There are also a number of highly finished drawings, such as Gustave Doré's "The Massacre of the Innocents" of about 1869-72 and Léon-Augustin Lhermitte's "Lunch at the Cerverie Farm," created in 1895. Self-portraits are also represented, as with Alexandre Rapin's elegant work, which reminds us both of artists' self-awareness in the 19th century and the long and noble lineage of this genre of art-making. Narrative images drawn from ancient Greek and Roman mythology, history and religion, all considered "appropriate" subjects for academic painters, are also represented in show, as are evocative landscapes by Adolphe Appian and Charles Damour; apt reminders of the importance of plein-air painting exercises even for artists not associated with the Impressionist movement of the 1870s and 1880s.

"These drawings splendidly enrich our painting and sculpture collection," said Dr. David Farmer, Dahesh Museum of Art Director of Exhibitions. "We have deliberately acquired drawings by artists whose paintings feature in our collection - most directly a preparatory drawing for one of our masterpieces, Alexandre Cabanel's "Death of Moses,' showing the artist's earlier compositional idea. There are also drawings by important artists not yet represented in the collection. I can think of no better venue for this exhibition than a university museum, where students and the public can enjoy the special pleasures of examining drawings."

The Bellarmine Museum of Art is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on select Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information, call the Bellarmine Museum of Art at (203) 254-4046, or visit www.fairfield.edu/museum, or www.daheshmuseum.org. The Bellarmine Museum of Art is located in Bellarmine Hall on the campus of Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. For directions, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/arts/bell_info.html#directions.

 


Image: Léon Bonnat (French, 1833-1922), Jacob Wrestling the Angel, 1876, Pencil and black chalk on paper, 20 3/4 x 14 ½., Collection of the Dahesh Museum of Art, New York (2003.30)

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Media Contact: Mike Horyczun, (203) 254-4000 ext. 2647, mhoryczun@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 28, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 59