For this exhibition, seventy works on paper by some fifty artists active between the fifteenth century and the present day have been selected from the print and drawing collections of three museums in Paristhe Musée du Louvre
, the Musée dOrsay
, and the Centre Pompidou
as well as from a number of other French collections. The artists represented use a variety of techniques and tools on all kinds of paper: white or colored, transparent or not, and either found, reused or carefully chosen. Paper may be marked, stamped, overlaid, assembled or cut out, pasted, stapled or even stuck with pins. Drawings may be executed on fine art papers selected according to very precise criteria, or by using the first piece of paper that comes to hand. Artists may also tear, perforate or burn their paper, but always in order to better underscore particular aspects of the material, paying tribute to this treasured medium. By setting works of artists from different generations and different centuries against each other, the exhibition seeks to illustrate the ways in which paper plays an essential role in the art of drawing.
Organized into five sections, the exhibition aims to inspire comparisons between old masters and modern artists and to reveal the wide range of technical and aesthetic approaches used. The exhibition is on display from June 9 and runs until September 5, 2012 at the Musée du Louvre.
Papers and colors
Color may serve as a mask, hiding or covering the medium, all the while enhancing the impact of the artists drawing: examples include drawings on pink paper by Botticelli, Degas or the American conceptual artist Robert Barry, together with others on blue paper (Jan de Cock, Lavinia Fontana), on black paper (Pierrette Bloch), as well as those involving oil on paper, such as the works of Vleughels, Michallon or Simon Hantaï.
Assembled paper, multiplied paper
The exhibitions second section examines the many enticing ways in which a single sheet of paper can be handled and transformed: expanding the medium by pasting several sheets together (Rubens), assembling a composition by bringing together fragments of drawings (Ingres), covering portions of a composition with other pieces of paper, thus opening up the possibility of alterations or second thoughts (Jean Dubois), or drawing with the paper itself, creating silhouette portraits through the simple manipulation of black and white space (Oberlin). Paper collages and cut-outs matured into a fully fledged art form by the twentieth century, a period explored in the exhibition through the works of artists such as Braque, Picasso and Matisse.
Found paper, selected paper
Paper, whether serendipitously discovered or painstakingly selected for its specific characteristics, has long been a preferred medium of expression for artists, as evidenced by the works of Rembrandt, Piranesi, Van Gogh, Seurat, Cézanne, Maillol and Picasso, among others.
Transfers and transparencies
A new drawing may be a copy of an existing one. As artists have always been interested in the ability to see through paper and to move compositions from one medium to another, the practices of tracing, transferring and perforation have been employed since ancient times.
Tortured paper, glorified paper
The final section of the exhibition focuses primarily on twentieth-century works, by artists such as Jean Arp, Jacques Villeglé, François Rouan, Claude Viallat, Eduardo Chillida and Christian Jaccard. Pieces celebrating the beauty of paper as a material are presented alongside others in which it is mutilated or partially destroyed. But we quickly realize that the former means nothing without the latter and that the glory of tormented paper is universal.
Lastly, a recent drawing by Dominique De Beir, Le Blanc, cest la nuit, conceived especially for the exhibition, is placed in front of the window opposite the entrance to the Salle de la Chapelle. Created in the form of three horizontal strips of Canson Montval paper, this work invites the viewer to explore the transparency of light. An information panel next to the piece relates the history of this particular paper, created for Aristide Malliol in 1911, and produced since 1925 by Canson.