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Verso: The Flip Side of Master Drawings

Verso: The Flip Side of Master Drawings
James G. Harper
ISBN 1-891771-19-1
72 pages;
9-3/4x9 in.
10 color and 60 b&w illustrations
Paper,
$15.00

This is the catalogue of the first exhibition devoted entirely to the display of drawings as three-dimensional objects with both a front and a back. Many of the flip sides, called versos, are revealed to the public for the first time. Work by thirty-two artists is represented, including Filippino Lippi, Pietro Perugino, Michelangelo, Paolo Veronese, Agostino Carracci, Claude Lorrain, Salvator Rosa, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jacques-Louis David, John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Henry Moore, David Smith, and Claes Oldenburg.

The selected versos convey important information about artistic personalities, the creative process, and workshop practice. They also lead to the exploration of broader concepts like the function of drawing, the history of the use of paper, and the changing value of drawings over time. A recurring question is, “Which side is the verso, and who decides?” The decision seldom belongs to the artist, though the twentieth century did see a shift toward a conceptual self-consciousness on the part of artists who use the verso. More often the collector, curator, or cataloguer is the one to designate which side should be considered the front and which the back, a decision that often reflects tastes and biases unconnected with the artist’s intentions.

Published to accompany an exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums, May 19–August 12, 2001.

James G. Harper was the 1998–99 Lynn and Philip A. Straus Intern in the Drawings Department, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum.