The Morgan celebrates esteemed collectors Richard and Mary Gray's remarkable collection of drawings

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The Morgan celebrates esteemed collectors Richard and Mary Gray's remarkable collection of drawings
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804). Puchinello collapses on the road, ca. 1791. Pen and brown ink, and brush and brown washes, over traces of charcoal. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.869. Photography by Art Institute of Chicago Imaging Department.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum is presenting an exhibition celebrating the remarkable collection of drawings assembled by one of America’s foremost art dealers, Richard Gray, and his wife, the art historian Mary L. Gray. Encompassing works made in Europe and the United States between the fifteenth and the twenty-first century, the Gray Collection represents a stimulating survey of key aspects in the long and distinguished history of drawing. Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection, on view February 19 through June 6, 2021, includes many outstanding works from the collection, which was amassed over the course of nearly fifty years.

While there are many examples of sheets by established artists— Rubens, Boucher, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, Picasso, and Hockney, among others—the Grays were more interested in skill than celebrity, and many of the exceptional drawings in their collection bear the names of lesser-known draftsmen. In all eras, keenly aware of their place in the history of art, many of the artists consistently engaged in lively conversations with the works of their contemporaries and forebears. Juxtaposing drawings from distinct periods and places, Conversations in Drawing also explores these visual connections, highlighting the the continuities and innovations that have emerged over the course of the medium’s evolution.

The exhibition includes a large number of works focused on the human figure, underscoring the fundamental role of figure drawing and the body. Highlights include Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) Two Dancers (1925), which the artist created while observing rehearsals of the Ballets Russes, and Giovanni Battista Naldini’s (1537–1591) Study of a Seated Youth (ca. 1575), a brilliant example of Florentine draftsmanship at the end of the sixteenth century. Naldini’s drawing is a carefully posed serpentine figure, whose elongated arms are arranged as if to hold an invisible musical instrument. The artist’s application of chalk ranges from sharp, angular marks, which define the contours and folds of the youth’s shirt, to areas of soft hatching, used for modeling. Also included is Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s (1780–1867) Comtesse Charles d’Agoult and Her Daughter Claire d’Agoult (1849), one of the artist’s largest and most ambitious portrait drawings, notable for its evocation of the richly furnished interior of d’Agoult’s home. The artist selectively applied yellow watercolor to enhance objects and added white heightening to the sitters’ dresses to suggest the sheen of silk. Additionally, Henri Matisse’s (1869–1954) Study of a Woman (1939) was an exercise in invention and variation, a way for Matisse to organize his thoughts and clarify his means while painting La musique (1939). There is a tactile quality to Matisse’s exploration in the velvety deposits of charcoal left in the dark outline of the model’s features, her softly smudged skin and hair, and the brilliant areas of white left to describe her dress.

Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in cooperation with the Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Dr. Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan, said, “The Morgan Library & Museum is delighted to present this exhibition, which recognizes – and celebrates - Richard and Mary Gray’s commitment to collecting and philanthropy. The Morgan is honored to have been among a small number of institutions fortunate enough to have received gifts from the Gray Collection, including works by Daumier, Dubuffet, Léger, Lichtenstein, Matisse, and Picasso, among others.”

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