The fascination with drawings in Western art, dating back over five hundred years, goes back to the principle that drawings show the artist’s thoughts and creative process with greater immediacy than any other form of art. The evidence of an artist’s changes of direction, mistakes, and triumphs right there on the page makes us witnesses to the creative act, and brings us as close as possible to the artist’s mind.
This feeling about drawing is hardly surprising when we consider that Italian Renaissance art, and, by extension, the academic practice of Western art in the centuries that followed, are based on the belief, expressed by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian art theorists, that drawing was the chief prerequisite for all types of artistic endeavor—painting, sculpture, architecture, and the decorative arts. As works of art made in Italy from approximately 1500 to 1800, the drawings in this exhibition all demonstrate this reverence for the practice of drawing, regardless of medium, subject matter, or intent.
Looking at drawings is a delightfully multifaceted undertaking. Our enjoyment of them is shaped by the experience of materials, techniques, and varying purposes for drawings. And it is enhanced by the ability, in a sense, to look over the shoulders of centuries of collectors who have deemed these drawings worthy of care, attention, and discussion. We at the Johnson Museum wish to express our profound gratitude to Seymour Askin, Jr., and Helen-Mae Askin, whose judgment and good taste as collectors over the past twenty years have been responsible for the gathering of a collection worthy of any Renaissance courtier. We are extremely grateful for their generosity to us as friends of the Museum and with their treasured works of art.
Andrew C. Weislogel
Assistant Curator / Master Teacher