Old master drawings are a challenge for conservators. Fragile and damaged over time simply by exposure to light, drawings cannot be placed on permanent display, or even frequent display. Every period of exposure to light must be considered, in effect, a time subtracted from the life of the drawing.
Also, drawings, even those by great masters, receive less notice and attention than paintings, and for both reasons are less frequently the subject of mounted exhibitions.
So when collections or parts of collections of master drawings are exhibited, it’s worthy of notice.
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which I have written about previously, and mentioned in my recent post on their cuerrent exhibit, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, is home to a great collection of master drawings.
They have drawn form it, if you’ll excuse the expression, an exhibition focused on a particular place and time. Rome After Raphael displays over 80 drawings, most of them from the Morgan’s own collection, that take Raphael’s work as a watershed moment (not an uncommon thought, see my posts on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of 19th Century), and follow developments in drawing in the 100 years following.
Tough nothing quite compares with seeing master drawings in person (I think drawings suffer even more in reproduction than paintings), the Morgan has provided an extensive selection of drawings from the show. These are zoomable, and the zooming feature is supplemented with a terrific “Full Screen” option that allows you to view them without the constraining frame of many zooming features (look for it at the bottom right of the zooming controls).
There is also an online feature that walks through a discussion of several of the drawings and goes into more detail on some of the artists, their relationship to each other and their place in time.
Raphael was one of history’s greatest draftsmen, and is, of course, represented, along with another, Michelangelo (see my post on Michelangelo’s drawings).
Many well known and lesser known artists working in Rome during that period are also represented by drawings of a variety of subjects — allegorical, architectural and religious, like Parmigianino’s drawing after Michelangelo’s Pieta (above top); and even landscape studies, like Annibale Carracci’s wonderful pen and brown ink sketch of a riverside tree (above, bottom).
Rome After Raphael is on display through May 9, 2010.