If You Happen To Be In New York City


The British visionary Samuel Palmer drew “Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park,” ca. 1828, using pen and ink, graphite, and watercolor. Thaw Collection; The Morgan Library & Museum

We try not to judge a book by its cover, but if the sample above is any indication this looks like a show worth visiting:

Five Centuries of Drawings at the Morgan

From a study of drapery by a German artist circa 1480 to an Ellsworth Kelly collage from 1976, the collection is almost unbearably excellent.

The almost unbearably excellent show “Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection” begins with a love story. In 1954, the dealer Eugene Thaw—the son of a heating contractor and a high-school teacher, from Washington Heights—had a prescient assistant who suggested that he start buying art for himself.He took her advice. He also proposed to her. When Clare Eddy Thaw died, this summer, on her ninety-third birthday, the couple had been married for sixty-three years. Over time, the Thaws’ collection diversified, but Old Master and modern drawings were always its heart—not to mention how Thaw made his money.

A hundred and fifty works on paper—landscapes, portraits, Biblical scenes, still-lifes, interiors, letters from Vincent van Gogh—are hanging now (through Jan. 7) at the Morgan Library & Museum, the cream of a much larger gift from the Thaws to the institution. Divided chronologically into nine sections, they span five hundred years, from a strikingly modern study of drapery by an unknown German artist, circa 1480, to a black-and-white Ellsworth Kelly collage, from 1976, as elemental as an eclipse.

The practice of drawing in Europe is as old as the lines on the caves at Lascaux. But there was a sea change during the Renaissance, when the earliest pieces on view here were made…

Read the whole review here.

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