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Collections and Critiques

Exhibit of Old Master Drawings Placed On Public View In Fogg Museum of Fine Arts


Among collections of drawings in this country the Fogg Museum is generally considered pre eminent. From an abundance which includes not only the Fogg's own holdings, the Sachs and the Locser Collections and precious examples bought from the great Oppenheimer Collection in London, some fifty-five drawings have been selected for this exhibit. "Old Master Drawings" is the title but the footnote may be added that this has been interpreted broadly to include about twenty from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

No critical comment is in place here. That has already been made in many instances in the catalogues where they have been shown, in America and in Europe. The more recent acquisitions have also been published in the Museum's Bulletin and elsewhere by Miss Agnes Mongan, Keeper of Drawings at the Museum. But it is worth noting that proportion has been made among the many masters and schools. And some outline should be given of what awaits a visitor, whether he is a connoisseur who knows the field, or a layman who would go far to see a drawing made by the hand of Raphael or Durer or Rubens.

Placed first in line, and it would seem after honor, are ten drawings from the Italian masters of the Cinquecento. Studies of heads or hands, figures or groups they are small and delicately executed in the exacting mediums of the pen or the silverpoint. But all represent the beginnings of monumental works, religious paintings by such masters as Raphael and Perugino, Mantegna and Filippano Lippi. Of the sixteenth century there are included only two. They are a crayon and much larger in scale; a study by Veronese and a finished portrait by Luini of a young woman.

On another wall are seven German drawings. They belong to the sixteenth century but most of them are in ink and are religious in subject. Such for instance is the strange "Pieta" by Hans Leu. Secular and strikingly handsome is the large portrait of Susanna of Bavaria, in crayon on a green ground, by Durer. In sharp contrast is the tragic portrait of a leper, by Holbein.

From the Low Countries there are three Rembrandts (a sheet of heads, an interior and a sketch of landscape), two Van Dycks (a suit of splendid armor, front and back) and two figure studies by Rubens of which the sketch for the apostles in the Vienna "Assumption" is especially prized by the Museum.

When we come to the large group of French drawings we are at once impressed by the length of a tradition in draughtmanship. Of its several centuries five are represented here. The accomplishment of the sixteenth can be seen in aportrait by Francois Clouet, of the seventeenth in a wash drawing of landscape by Claude. The special character of the eighteenth, in attitude as in drawing is revealed in a series of red crayon studies by Watteau and Fragonard, Boucher and Greuze.

From this point on, the tradition becomes broader and the showing more ample. We can pursue it, in a second room, in several fine Ingres, in a Delacroix and a Gericault and a whole sheaf by Degas; we discover it, still potent, in four cartoons of pure line, by Picasso. Certainly in those two rooms we contemplate a wondrous diversity of the human spirit, conveyed by the mere line and surface of drawings.

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