John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was one of the greatest portrait artists of his time. While he is best known for his powerful paintings, he largely ceased painting portraits in 1907 and turned instead to charcoal drawings to satisfy portrait commissions.

The Morgan Library & Museum presented a major exhibition of his beautiful portraits of beautiful people, in charcoal.

November 10th, 2019

Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings: Bold, Bright, Beholding

Second day in Mass MoCA, because it would have been impossible to absorb so much art, all at once!… (tickets were valid for two consecutive days then, this may have changed post-Covid).

…”Each wall drawing begins as a set of instructions or a simple diagram to be followed in executing the work. As the exhibition makes clear, these straightforward instructions yield an astonishing—and stunningly beautiful—variety of work that is at once simple and highly complex, rigorous, and sensual. The drawings in the exhibition range from layers of straight lines meticulously drawn in black graphite pencil lead, to rows of delicately rendered wavy lines in colored pencil; from bold black-and-white geometric forms, to bright planes in acrylic paint arranged like the panels of a folding screen; from sensuous drawings created by dozens of layers of transparent washes, to a tangle of vibratory orange lines on a green wall, and much more. Forms may appear to be flat, to recede in space, or to project into the viewer’s space, while others meld to the structure of the wall itself, like gauze.” [source]

Images of wall drawings:

793A – Irregular wavy color bands
340 – One of a Six-part drawing
396 – A black five-pointed star, a yellow six-pointed star, a red seven-pointed star, and a blue eight-pointed star
414 – Drawing Series IV (A) with India ink washes (detail of 24 drawings)
527 – Two flat-topped pyramids with color ink washes superimposed
439 – Asymmetrical pyramid with color ink washes superimposed (plus us in playful mood, trying to agree which wall would work best in our home)

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective

On view through 2043

MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA

September 2nd, 2019

Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper


Brooklyn Museum

August 25th, 2019

At home with Hopper

Where he was born and grew up, drew his first impressions and sketches, pictures that were imprinted on his memory working to make him the artist he became.

On the ground floor, an additional exhibition of works by Alastair Noble, inspired by Hopper’s boyhood fascination with yachts and other sailing boats; an installation of paper boats and poetic messages, a weightless flotilla flowing across the gallery.

Edward Hopper, 1933 photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe
Edward Hopper, Truro, Massachusetts, 1960 photo by Arnold Newman
Talent ran in the family: Pencil drawing by the artist’s mother, Elizabeth Griffiths Hopper, Landscape, c. 1862
Edward Hopper, Deserted House on a Mountain, c. 1900, pencil
Edward Hopper, Yachting Scene, c. 1905, a rare early watercolour of what became Hopper’s lifelong passion for maritime subjects.

Edward Hopper House

Nyack, N.Y.

July 17th, 2019

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern – part II

Paul Cadmus
Ballet Positions. Drawings for Ballet Alphabet: A Primer for Laymen 1939
Ink, pencil, coloured ink, and gouache on paper

Works by Forrest Thayer, Charles Rain, Tom Lee, and Keith Morrow Martin

Keith Morrow Martin
Costume design for the ballet Harlequin for President 1936
Gouache, watercolour, metallic gouache, and pencil on paper

Alvin Colt
Finale Girls. Costume design for the ballet A Thousand Times Neigh 1940
Gouache, pencil, stamped ink, and stapled fabric on coloured card

Alvin Colt
Costume design for the ballet Charade (or The Debutante) 1939
Gouache, stapled fabric, pencil, and stamped coloured ink on coloured card

Forrest Thayer
Costume designs for the ballet Promenade 1936
Watercolour and pencil on paper

Kurt Seligmann
Costume designs for the ballet The Four Temperaments c. 1946
Fourth Variation/Choleric
Gouache, watercolour, coloured pencil, and pencil on paper

Kurt Seligmann
Costume designs for the ballet The Four Temperaments c. 1946
First Variation/Melancholic
Crayon, gouache, watercolour, coloured pencil, and pencil on paper

Kurt Seligmann
Costume designs for the ballet The Four Temperaments c. 1946
Second Variation/Sanguinic
Gouache, watercolour, coloured pencil, crayon, and pencil on paper
Kurt Seligmann
Costume designs for the ballet The Four Temperaments c. 1946
Theme 3 (Female)
Gouache, watercolour, and pencil on paper

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lincoln Kirstein, 1964
Gelatin silver print, printed 1968

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern

MoMA, Mar-Jun 2019

March 15th, 2019

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern – part I

Lucian Freud
Portrait of Lincoln Kirstein, 1950
Oil on canvas

Kirstein sat for this portrait while he was in London for a New York City Ballet performance at Covent Garden and to organize the exhibition Symbolic Realism in American Painting: 1940-1950 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Lucian Freud
Portrait of a Woman, 1949
Oil on canvas

Artworks by Pavel Tchelitchew, George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus & Jean Cocteau
Pavel Tchelitchew
George Platt Lynes, 1935
Coloured ink on paper

Walker Evans
Lincoln Kirstein, c. 1931
Gelatin silver print

Paul Cadmus
Designs for the ballet Filling Station, 1937
Paul Cadmus
Designs for the ballet Filling Station, 1937
Paul Cadmus
Designs for the ballet Filling Station, 1937
Paul Cadmus
Designs for the ballet Filling Station, 1937
Paul Cadmus
Designs for the ballet Filling Station, 1937

Karl Free
Costume designs for the ballet Pocahontas, c. 1936

Jared French
Costume design for the ballet Billy the Kid, 1938

“I have a live eye,” proclaimed Lincoln Kirstein, signaling his wide-ranging vision. Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern explored this polymath’s sweeping contributions to American cultural life in the 1930s and ’40s. Best known for cofounding New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet with George Balanchine, Kirstein (1907–1996), a writer, critic, curator, impresario, and tastemaker, was also a key figure in MoMA’s early history. With his prescient belief in the role of dance within the museum, his championing of figuration in the face of prevailing abstraction, and his position at the center of a New York network of queer artists, intimates, and collaborators, Kirstein’s impact remains profoundly resonant today. [source: MoMA]

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern

MoMA, Mar-Jun 2019

March 15th, 2019

By All Means: Time travel @ The Morgan

Travelling in time and space in just a few steps, from gallery to gallery, at The Morgan; when three fantastic exhibitions ran simultaneously through May 2019.

By any means: Contemporary drawings from The Morgan

Stephen Vitiello (American, b. 1964)
Speaker Drawing (22.06), 2006 – Pigment and spray fixative

This work is part of a series in which Vitiello explored the relationship between sound – his primary medium – and drawing. He placed pigment in a speaker that was embedded in a table, laying a sheet of paper on top. Vibrations from a synthesizer’s low-frequency oscillator moved the pigment from the speaker to the paper, creating an image that contrasted in its minimalism with the density of the aural event.

Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007)
Untitled (folded paper drawing), 1971

John Cage (American, 1912-1992)
Where R = Ryoanji (2R)/4-6/83, 1983
Graphite pencil

Cage often relied on chance to determine the forms of his works. The present sheet belongs to a series inspired by the Zen rock garden of the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, in which fifteen rocks are carefully arranged. The selection of stones, the number of tracings (here 30, as denoted by 2R, where R is equivalent to 15, the number of stones at the temple), their placement, and the number of pencils of different softness that he used (4) were determined by the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination manual, by way of a computer simulation developed by Bell Labs in New York.

Marsha Cottrell (American, b. 1964)
Old Museum (Interior_7), 2015
Laser toner

Although Cottrell uses a computer to make her work, she does not use a computer programme to determine composition but instead passes Japanese paper through a printer numerous times, each time changing or rearranging the shapes on the screen to generate dense, layered images.

Invention and Design: Early Italian Drawings

After Girolamo Mocetto (ca. 1458-after 1531)
Metamorphosis of the Nymph Amymone, ca. 1500
Brush and brown, green-brown, and blue wash, pen and green-brown ink, and white opaque watercolour, over black chalk, on paper

Vittore Carpaccio (1460/66-1525/26)
Head of a Young Man, in Profile to the Right, 1490-1500
Black chalk, brown wash, and white opaque watercolour, on blue paper

Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio (ca. 1489-1534)
Head of a Woman Crying Out, ca. 1509-11
Charcoal and black and white chalk, on two pieces of light brown paper joined vertically

Timoteo Viti (1469-1523)
Head of a Woman in Profile to the Right, ca. 1515
Black and white chalk, on two pieces of paper joined vertically; incised with stylus

Bartolomeo Cincani, known as Bartolomeo Montagna (1447/50-1523)
Nude Man Standing Beside a High Pedestal, ca. 1515
Brush and black ink and brown wash, heightened with white opaque watercolour, over traces of black chalk, on blue paper faded to brown

Attributed to Francesco Bonsignori (1455/60-1519)
Head of a Man Wearing a Cap, in Profile to the Left, ca. 1490-1500
Red, black, and white chalk

Lorenzo di Credi (ca. 1456-1536)
Head of a Young Man, Turned to the Left, Looking Downward, ca. 1490
Metalpoint, with white opaque watercolour, on pink prepared paper

Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (active ca. 1467-ca. 1524)
Head of a Bearded Man in Profile to the Right and Head of a Youth Facing Left, ca. 1500
Red chalk

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Tree of Amalion, [?1940s] – Coloured pencil, watercolour, silver paint, black in on grey paper
MS. Tolkien Drawings 88, fol. 1

”He was the sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees. He used to spend a long time on a single leaf, trying to catch its shape, and its sheen, and the glistening of dewdrops on its edges. Yet he wanted to paint a whole tree, with all of its leaves in the same style, and all of them different.”

This extract from Tolkien’s allegorical short story, ”Leaf by Niggle”, is a poignant expression of his own creative struggle as he sought to bring his works, both literary and academic, to completion. The story was written in the early 1940s as he worked fitfully on The Lord of the Rings, his Elvish languages and his wider legendarium, all of which seemed very far from completion. His perfectionism often resulted in numerous revisions and rewritings, whilst his interest in the minutiae led him down interesting but distracting side roads.

The only snapshot I could steal; so long were the lines, the guards had to usher Tolkien’s devotees, or the gallery would burst from overcrowding!

The Morgan Library

March 9th, 2019

The Young and Evil

From February through April 2019, David Zwirner presented The Young and Evil, a group exhibition featuring significant works from the first half of the twentieth century by Paul Cadmus, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein, Charles Henri Ford, Jared French, Margaret Hoening French, George Platt Lynes, Bernard Perlin, Pavel Tchelitchew, George Tooker, Jensen Yow, and their circle.

Among them, some works by Pavel Tchelitchew, to which I was particularly drawn.

March 7th, 2019

The Illustrious R. Crumb

Robert Crumb is an unblinking witness to and graphic critic of the dysfunctional strangeness of the Disunited States. He is peerless in that regard because there’s simply no one like him and no one is as ”far out”. – Robert Storr

Drawing for Print: Mind Fucks, Kultur Klashes, Pulp Fiction & Pulp Fact by the Illustrious R. Crumb

David Zwirner Gallery, New York

March 07th, 2019