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Frick Brings Drawing Masterpieces from London to NYC

By Amy Zimmer | September 28, 2012 12:41pm

MANHATTAN — Drawings from Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Goya, van Gogh, Seurat, Cezanne, Picasso and other masters of the Western canon — many of which have never been seen in New York — have made their way from London’s Courtauld Gallery to the Frick Collection this week.

The unprecedented loan exhibition, “Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery,” which runs from Oct. 2 through Jan. 27 2013, marks the first time many of these prized works have ever been made available for loan, Frick officials said.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Colin Bailey, the Frick’s deputy director and chief curator, who organized the exhibit with Stephanie Buck, curator of drawings at the Courtauld Gallery, where the show was first mounted from June through September.

“It’s a little bit like walking through the history of Western art from Leonardo to Matisse and seeing beautiful and highly representative master works by each figure,” he added. “The aesthetic wattage of the gallery is quite high. It is a range, in many ways, of the greatest drawings of the best artists of their generation.”

The 58 drawings in the show encompass the best draftsmanship of Italian, Dutch, Flemish, German, Spanish, British and French artists from the late Middle Ages to the early 20 th century. The works include everything from preliminary sketches and practice studies to finished works.

One of the earliest examples of a finished work is Michelangelo’s “Dream” or “Il Sogno,” an allegory from the 16 th century about overcoming temptation, showing a young nude male who embodies the human mind awakened from evil dreams. One of the later finished works is Paul Cezanne’s “Apples, Bottle and Chairback,” a vibrant watercolor that museum officials said achieves a “freshness and radiance that equal, if not surpass, his late paintings in oil.”

Bailey called it “a really wonderful introduction to the masters” and in illustrating the “different functions and different uses of drawing.”

The Courtauld Gallery, which is more well-known for its Impressionist works than extensive collection of drawings, has an interesting connection to the Frick: Its founder Samuel Courtauld, a British industrialist whose wealth came from textiles, had been advised in his early acquisitions of Impressionist works by Roger Fry, who was briefly and advisor coke and steel magnate Henry Clay Frick.