Edgar Degas. Dancer. 1897-1900. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection. BMA 1950.205
Edgar Degas. Dancer. 1897-1900. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection. BMA 1950.205

One extraordinary exhibition on view at two museums

BALTIMORE, MD (June 13, 2005)—For the first time, the renowned collections of 19th-century French drawings from The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum are the subject of a major joint exhibition presented at each museum. The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas, on view June 19 through September 11, 2005, features more than 150 rarely shown drawings and watercolors by some of the most influential French artists of the 19th century, including Eugène Delacroix, Honoré Daumier, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas. From revealing preparatory sketches to beautiful finished watercolors, these works survey the astonishing range of French art over the course of a century of innovation—Neoclassical landscapes and Symbolist fantasies; narrative scenes and poignant views of peasant life; and bawdy caricatures and social satire.

“The collections from The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum encapsulate one of the nation’s strongest and richest collections of French art from this period,” said BMA Director Doreen Bolger. “These rarely shown works of art provide unique insight into the minds of some of the most fascinating artists and collectors of the 19th century.”

“Combined, these collections offer a more complete picture of 19th-century art production than is generally available in most places outside of New York, Paris or London,” said Walters Director Gary Vikan. “As this exhibition travels around the country, it will enhance Baltimore’s reputation as a destination for cultural travelers.”

The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas is thematically divided between the two institutions. The Walters Art Museum features approximately 75 drawings that emphasize how artists use drawing as part of their creative process. Preparatory drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Théodore Géricault, Edgar Degas, Henri Fantin-Latour, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others provide an intimate glimpse of the artist at work. These works include figure and facial studies, the discovery of the natural world through landscapes and images that depict mid-century thought on drawing, color and composition.

The Baltimore Museum of Art explores French drawings through the eyes of the collector in works by such masters as Mary Cassatt, Honoré Daumier, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edouard Manet and Jean-Francois Millet, who distinguished themselves at the Paris Salons with their highly finished drawings intended for the market. These works, many originally enjoyed by collectors in private albums or portfolios, include genre scenes of contemplation, the poetics of nature, portraits, caricatures, satires and illustrations.

Both museum installations provide insights into the artistic, commercial and social functions that drawings served for their creators and collectors, as well as how collecting patterns influenced the development of modernism. The exhibition also includes works on loan from The Peabody Art Collection of the Maryland State Archives.

The exhibition will travel to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, February 19–May 14, 2006 and the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington, June 9–September 17, 2006.

 The Essence of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas is curated by BMA Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Jay Fisher, Walters Senior Curator of 18th- and 19th-century Art William Johnston and Project Research Associate Cheryl Snay, now Assistant Curator, Prints, Drawings & European Paintings at The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art.

Previous collaborations between The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum include the highly successful international traveling exhibition, The Triumph of French Painting: Masterpieces from Ingres to Matisse and Book Arts in the Age of Dürer in 2000.

The exhibition has been organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum with funding provided by The Richard C. von Hess Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Walters venue has been generously supported by Stephanie and Jay Wilson, Millicent and Peter Bain, and Eleanor Abell Owen.

French Drawings in Baltimore
The BMA and the Walters have a combined holding of more than 900 French drawings from the 19th century, one of the nation’s strongest and richest collections of French art from this period. These collections are among the few public holdings of 19th-century French drawings that were formed at the time and remain essentially intact. They offer a unique insight into the production and acquisition of art created during a pivotal moment in cultural history, the transition from academic traditions to modernism.

The Walters’ holdings, which were mostly assembled by William T. Walters (1819–94) with assistance from his agent George A. Lucas (1824–1909), reflect the preference for highly finished works prevalent among wealthy East Coast collectors during the second half of the 19th century. The BMA’s collection demonstrates the taste and expertise of such prominent Baltimore collectors as Claribel and Etta Cone (1864–1929 and 1870–1949) and George A. Lucas, whose personal collection of works by mid-19th century French artists is considered one of the most significant resources in the United States for the study of art from this time period.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a 408-page, full-color catalogue featuring some of the finest works from these Baltimore collections. More than 100 illustrated entries reveal the significance of the work within the artist’s oeuvre and patron’s collection, as well as the work’s technical properties and social content. Essays examine collectors of French drawings and their collecting habits, responses by contemporary critics and changes in materials and techniques that distinguish drawings of this period. Co-published by Penn State University Press, the catalogue will be available for purchase in each museum shop for $39.95 paperback; $75 hardcover.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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