An intriguing exhibition of rarely-seen prints and drawings, including over 30 new acquisitions, taken largely from the National Gallery of Canada
s (NGC) own collections is on view from now until September 12, 2010. Central European Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada features magnificent master works by Dürer, Klimt, Kirchner, Nolde, Dix, and Grosz. The exhibition surveys the period from the early sixteenth century to the end of the Second World War and reflects the historical and geographical diversity of Central Europe. Due to their fragility these works are seldom displayed.
The Gallerys collection of drawings from Central Europe is the richest and most diverse in the land, said NGC Gallery Director, Marc Mayer. Drawing represents a primary medium and it is always intimate, no matter what the scale, as it is the most direct expression of the artists hand, he added.
The designation Central Europe, as used in the exhibitions title, refers to the changing geographical region covered first by the Holy Roman Empire from the 16th century until its dissolution by Napoleon in 1806; then by the German Confederation of states established in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna; and finally by Germany, Switzerland and Austria after 1871, and by Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) after 1918.
Despite the religious wars that broke out in the 1520s, the arts flourished. Royal patronage, the invention of the printing press, the emergence of the upper and middle classes, the creation of Germany in 1871, the Enlightenment, and the modern period form the framework of the five centuries explored in this exhibition.
Organized thematically, the prints and drawings in the exhibition comprise landscapes, portraits, figure studies, and genre scenes. As Mitchell B. Frank, Associate Professor of Art History at Carleton University explains in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue, some of the works are original creations, while others are copies. Supporting materials include different types of paper as well as vellum, and the media include ink, graphite, crayon, chalk, and watercolour. The functions the drawings served vary as well. Some are finished works, while others are studies and preparatory drawings. Even the latter can be subdivided into those made in preparation for prints, murals, oil paintings, and stained glass, and those that were either compositional sketches or figure studies.
Central European Drawings of the National Gallery of Canada is the fifth in a series of exhibitions showcasing the permanent collection of drawings held by the National Gallery. Earlier exhibitions presented Italian drawings, Dutch and Flemish drawings, French drawings and British drawings. Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Dr. David Franklin assisted with the selection of drawings for this exhibition and was instrumental in the recent acquisition of more than thirty works that are also included.
The National Gallery of Canada owns the largest collection of prints and drawings in the country which includes a particularly rich collection of Classical and Romantic landscape drawings.