Drawing: The Invention of a Modern Medium

, University Research Gallery, University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • Sketchbook from the Italian Period
  • Study of the Borghese Gladiator as a Skeleton
  • Shells and Sea Plants
  • A Mounted Arab Attacking a Panther
  • Bacchanal
  • Sketchbook No. 20: Studies for
  • The Ghost of Clytemnestra, from Aeschylus's
  • Portrait of Victor Hugo
  • Portrait of Jean de Jullienne
  • Study for
  • Artist Sketching on the Pediment of the Pantheon, Rome
  • Young Man with Downcast Eyes
  • Sheet of Studies, including a Skull
  • Memories of a Drinker
  • Studies of Figures after
  • Design in Memory of Benjamin Franklin
  • Study for the Right Hand of Monsieur Louis Bertin
  • London Dray Driver
  • The Butcher
  • Portrait of Two Men
  • Sketches of Dancers
  • Diana
  • Head and Counterproof of Head of a Man
  • Album of twenty-six drawings related to the style of Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine
  • Study of Arabs
  • Study for the Start of the Race of the Barberi Horses
  • The Mutiny on the Raft of the Medusa
  • At the Circus: Jockey (Au cirque: Jockey)
  • The Genius of Liberty and Wisdom
  • The Market Place
  • Two Women and a Child
  • Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus (Study for
  • Race Course at Longchamp; verso: Section of grandstand area
  • Peasant of the Camargue
  • Street Scene, Evening
  • After the Bath, Woman with a Towel
  • Chimera
  • Blindman's Buff
  • Wooded Landscape
  • Two Peasant Women
  • Six Studies of Heads
  • The Instructive and Appetizing Meal
  • Café-Concert (A la Gaîté Rochechouart)
  • Study for
  • Study for the Portrait of Miss Crowe
  • Jeanne (Spring)
  • Head of a Woman
  • The Sirens
  • Artist at his Easel
  • After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Hair
  • Four Studies of a Severed Head
  • Woman Baking Bread
  • Astolphe Brings Back the Head of Orrile, for Canto XV of Ariosto's
  • Seated Female Nude
  • Reclining Nude
  • Love Seduces Innocence, Pleasure Leads Them On, Repentance Follows
  • Avian Album
  • Study for
On View University Research Gallery, University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Drawing became modern in the 18th century, when it left the confines of the artist’s studio to enter an expanded field of discourse, culture, politics, and social life. This transformation is most evident in France, where drawing was significantly, and influentially, repositioned and reconceptualized. This exhibition traces the emergence of the modern understanding of drawing from the 18th through the 19th century in multiple senses: as an autonomous form of expression, an index of the artist’s style, an object of aesthetic contemplation, an epistemological tool, and a commodity. The variety of techniques, materials, and approaches presented here offer a historically complex answer to the basic question: what does it mean to draw?

While historically grounded, the exhibition is not organized chronologically; rather, it is arranged around a constellation of categories that speak to key aspects of drawing. The display is divided into three sections—Medium, Object, Discourse—and, within them, into several subsections that treat the basic procedures of drawings not merely as the means but also as the agents of representation. “Medium” refers to the conjunction of materials and techniques with the historically specific conventions that govern their use in drawing. It explores artists’ interaction with, rather than simply their use of, the material bases of drawings. “Object” addresses the social and cultural functions and uses of drawing, focusing on its role as a tool of artistic instruction, its relation to reproductive technologies, its uses in architecture and decorative design, and its contribution to the production of knowledge. “Discourse” considers drawing as a means of conceptualization as well as a visual mode of thinking in and of itself.

This exhibition is the result of a unique collaboration between Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, the William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University; Elizabeth M. Rudy, the Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Associate Curator of Prints at the Harvard Art Museums; and the Harvard students who helped develop and organize the exhibition in the context of two seminars taught in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters, in the museums’ Art Study Center.

The exhibition catalogue, featuring essays by students from the seminar Drawing: Object, Medium, Discourse, is forthcoming.

This project is supported in part by the Gurel Student Exhibition Fund and the Mellon Publication Funds at the Harvard Art Museums.

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