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Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art

Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art

September 18, 2011 - December 31, 2011

Charles-Joesph Natoire

Charles-Joesph Natoire
Neptune and Amphritrite, ca. 1730s
Black chalk with brush and brown wash and
white heightening on blue laid paper
The Suida-Manning Collection

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to present Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art from September 18 – December 31, 2011. Organized by The Blanton, and comprising fifty-eight works drawn primarily from the museum’s Suida-Manning Collection, the exhibition explores the expressive and technical range of French drawing through preliminary sketches, compositional studies, figure studies, and finished drawings from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Among the artists included are Jacques Callot, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Louis Forain, and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen. Annette Carlozzi, Blanton Deputy Director of Art and Programs, states, “This exhibition is the culmination of a long-term project to study one aspect of The Blanton’s collection, conducted in collaboration with colleagues across UT’s campus and the country. The fresh art historical research and technical analysis it yielded adds to our understanding of some of the major figures of the period, their working methods and techniques, and the production of art during these centuries of innovation and revolution.”


Charles-Antoine Coypel
France Thanking Heaven for
the Recovery of Louis XV
, ca. 1744
Black and white chalks with brush
and gray wash and touches of red chalk
on cream antique laid paper
The Suida-Manning Collection

Storied Past is particularly strong in examples from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - a period in which the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) in Paris became one of the most dominant cultural and political institutions in Europe. The 1666 founding of its affiliated institution in Rome, the Académie de France (French Academy), provided French art students an opportunity to study and to absorb classical art and architecture. There, the formal and very rational French aesthetic soon became infused with the more passionate and emotional sensibilities of the Italians - a style that came to be known as Italianate. Included in the exhibition are several such examples by Charles-Joseph Natoire (who served as director of the French Academy in Rome from 1751-55), Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and others.

The social and political landscape of nineteenth-century France is examined through the work of Théodore-Alexandre Steinlen, Jean-Louis Forain and others. During this period of industrial and artistic transformation, French artists abandoned idealism and classical iconography for a more realist approach. Scenes of everyday life were favored over the religious and heroic scenes of the previous generation.

The “Storied Past” of the exhibition title refers not only to the narrative subjects favored by French artists but also to the individual stories of the objects themselves. Extensive research by curators and conservators has shed new light on the drawings, many of which have never before been published. Works thought to have been lost were newly identified and others reattributed, contributing significantly to the scholarship of this genre.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Cheryl Snay, curator of European art, Snite Museum of Art; Jonathan Bober, curator and head of the department of old master prints, National Gallery of Art; and Kenneth Grant, paper conservator, Harry Ransom Center. The catalog will be co-published by Hudson Hills Press.

Exhibition Tour: Grey Art Gallery, New York, April 17 – July 14, 2012; Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford, May 28 – August 24, 2014

Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art is organized by The Blanton.

Travel for the exhibition provided by United Airlines and by a grant from the Still Water Foundation with additional support from Alessandra and Kurt Dolnier.

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