Drawing: The Invention of a Modern Medium


Sat - Sun, Jan 21 to May 7, 10:00am - 5:00pm


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St.

Presented by: Harvard Art Museums
Admission: See website for admission infomation.
Museum Hours: Open daily 10am–5pm
Exhibition runs: January 21–May 7, 2017
Related eventsGallery Talk: Drawing: Medium, Discourse, Object, Feb. 1, 12:30-1 PM; Drawing: Medium, Discourse, Object, Feb. 8, 6-7:30 PM
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This exhibition traces the emergence of the modern understanding of drawing in multiple senses: as an autonomous form of expression; an index of the artist’s personal style; an object of aesthetic contemplation; an epistemological tool; and a commodity. While historically grounded in the French tradition of drawing in the 18th and 19th centuries, the exhibition is neither chronological nor linear, but instead arranged around a constellation of categories that speaks to the key aspects of drawing understood as a medium, an object, and a discourse. The variety of techniques, materials, and approaches developed by the major artists of this period offers a historically complex answer to the basic question: what is it to draw? The 60 drawings on view include important works in the Harvard Art Museums’ preeminent drawings collections and two loans from Harvard’s Houghton Library.

The exhibition is the result of close collaboration between Harvard professor Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Harvard Art Museums curator Elizabeth Rudy, who co-taught seminars on the history of drawing in the museums’ Art Study Center in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 and worked closely with their students to develop the show and its related materials. Students in the first seminar began the preliminary planning for the exhibition and wrote essays that will be published by the museums in an accompanying catalogue. These students studied and researched the drawings chosen for the exhibition, yielding new information about the works’ creation and even a new attribution—scholarship published for the first time in the catalogue. The students in the second seminar helped conceptualize the installation in the galleries and wrote labels for each drawing featured in the show. These labels will be compiled in a digital tool, which will also present audio clips of interviews with students about their research as well as additional resources.

Co-curated by Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, the William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University, and Elizabeth M. Rudy, the Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Associate Curator of Prints at the Harvard Art Museums.