Saturday, September 30, 2017

Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection.

The Morgan Library & Museum
September 29 through January 7, 2018


Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Letter to Paul Gauguin, 17 October 1888, with a sketch of Bedroom at Arles, pen and brown ink on graph paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6447.  Given in honor of Charles E.  Pierce, Jr., 2007.  Photography by Graham S.  Haber, 2016.
  • Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Letter to Paul Gauguin, 17 October 1888, with a sketch of Bedroom at Arles, pen and brown ink on graph paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6447. Given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007. Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2016.

The Thaw Collection is considered among the foremost private collections of drawings assembled over the last half century. It was first promised to the Morgan in 1975 by Eugene V. Thaw, now a Life Trustee, and the museum received the full collection of 424 works in early 2017. In honor of this extraordinary gift—one of the most important in the history of the museum—the Morgan presents Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection.

On view from September 29 through January 7, 2018, the exhibition includes more than 150 masterworks from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. A partial list of artists represented includes Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Watteau, Piranesi, Fragonard, Goya, Turner, Ingres, Daumier, Degas, Cézanne, Redon, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Pollock.

“It is difficult to summarize in a few words what the acquisition of the Thaw Collection means to the Morgan but ‘transformative’ may be the best single way to describe it,” said Director Colin B. Bailey. “The great range of artists, schools, and regions represented is remarkable. Moreover, the quality of the individual drawings reflects Gene Thaw’s exceptional critical eye—and his keen intellectual curiosity. Over the years Gene’s passionate commitment to the Morgan has never wavered and we can think of no better way to honor him and his late wife, Clare, than to present this exhibition of some of the greatest works from their collection.”

The exhibition is organized in a series of sections that illustrate key moments in the history of draftsmanship while also highlighting the work of artists whom the Thaws collected in depth, among them Rembrandt, Goya, Redon, and Degas.

One of the leading art dealers of his day, Eugene Thaw, who was born in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, initially was drawn to contemporary artists before focusing on major masters of the first decades of the twentieth century. He soon expanded his range to include earlier work, with a particular penchant for nineteenth-century French artists. Not long after his marriage to Clare Eddy in 1954, he was encouraged by his wife to keep some of the drawings for which he was particularly enthusiastic, and their private collection began to take shape.

Thaw acquired these great objects from a variety of sources: from art dealers and their galleries, through fellow collectors, at bookshops, and, perhaps most spectacularly, at auction. A major early purchase, in 1980, was the rare sheet by the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna that set a record price for a drawing by the artist. Later, Thaw had the opportunity to acquire one of the last significant landscape drawings by Rembrandt still in private hands.

The Thaws first became involved with the Morgan in the 1960s. The relationship deepened during the tenures of Morgan directors Charles Ryskamp (1969–86) and Charles E. Pierce, Jr. (1987–2007). In 1975, on the occasion of the collection’s first exhibition at the Morgan, the Thaws announced that they were making a promised gift of their drawings.

Over the years Thaw has contributed other important works to the Morgan including a superb group of landscape oil sketches which the museum shares with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also gave a collection of early Medieval ornamental objects currently installed in the McKim building’s North Room, and a cache of nineteen illustrated letters by Vincent van Gogh to his protégé, Émile Bernard.

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  • Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), Leave It All to Providence, 1816-20, black ink and gray wash. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum.
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  • Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), Three Studies for a Descent from the Cross, ca. 1654. Pen and brown ink. Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum.