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Minneapolis Institute of Arts Presents Expanding The Boundaries: Selected Drawings
Auguste Louis Lepère, River Landscape with Willow Trees, c. 1905-10, Pastel on cream paper, Collection of Yvonne and Gabriel P. Weisberg. L2007.89.10.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Minneapolis Institute of Arts presents an exhibition featuring drawings from the superb collection of Minnesota collectors Gabriel and Yvonne Weisberg. Approximately fifty drawings, watercolors, and pastels will be in Expanding the Boundaries, on view from December 13, 2008, through April 5, 2009. The Weisbergs began collecting drawings more than thirty years ago, with a focus on works by realist and naturalist artists working in France and Belgium in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The exhibition will introduce artists such as Adolphe Appian, François Bonvin, Jules Breton, Edgar Chahine, Louis Weldon Hawkins, Auguste Lepère, Leon Lhermitte, Charles Milcentdeau, and Thèodule Ribot.

For nearly forty years the Weisbergs have been expanding the boundaries of nineteenth-century art history. A professor of art history at the University of Minnesota since 1985, and prior to that, curator of education at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Gabriel has fought against an oversimplified view of the period, believing that much could be learned from deeper investigation into artistic activities in France and Belgium. Yvonne has worked alongside her husband on numerous research projects, exhibition catalogues, and books. In the process, the two have resurrected the careers of many artists who were highly respected and admired in their day but had fallen into obscurity.

In addition to finding lesser-known artists, the Weisbergs have consistently preferred subject matter that is not easily or commonly collected. Although the exhibition includes a strong selection of landscapes, such as Auguste Louis Lepère’s River Landscape with Willow Trees, the Weisbergs are committed to acquiring drawings that focus on the plight of workers – weavers, tanners, and miners are represented here – and that provide fresh, unglorified glimpses into rural life and customs. In this category are works such as Xavier Mellery’s Standing Peasant Girl and Lucien Ott’s A Tanner Smoking His Pipe. These images challenge the viewer to consider the less fortunate and those living on the margins of society.

The Weisbergs have focused on drawings over paintings, prints, or the decorative arts, believing that drawings are the most direct link to the creative impulse; no other medium so clearly reveals the hand and imagination of the artist. Their collection shows an astonishing variety and quality of nineteenth-century drawings. The works on view range from meticulously executed charcoal studies to loose watercolor sketches, from layered pastels to sheets that combine multiple mediums in innovate ways. From initial sketches for mural designs to highly finished compositions intended for Salon showings, the drawings gathered here represent bold techniques and even bolder themes. They call into question traditional assumptions of what constitutes a nineteenth-century drawing and go far in expanding the visitor’s view of this vital period in the history of art.

Expanding the Boundaries and the related catalogue celebrate the intended gift of the entire Weisberg collection to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The works in the exhibition represent less than half of the collection as it exists today, and the Weisbergs remain committed to adding to it in the years to come. This generous gift will enable the museum to greatly enhance the scope and diversity of its nineteenth- and early twentieth-century holdings. Several artists are unrepresented anywhere in the permanent collection, notably Charles Guilloux, Louis Welden Hawkins, Xavier Mellery, Charles Milcendeau, Lucien Otte, and Antoine Vollon.

The exhibition was organized by Lisa Michaux, Ph.D. acting co-curator of Prints and Drawings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

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