Louis-Léopold Boilly, The Happily Married Couple.
1807, Black and white chalk, with stumping on brown
paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
I recently stopped by The Morgan to view their exhibition The Age of Elegance: The Joan Taub Ades Collection. This intimate show is not to be missed if you are in the area. It is clear from the show that the collector truly has a passion for art and drawings. Each piece on display was very delicate and beautiful from material to style.
The exhibition is in the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, an incredibly intimate room. I was fortunate enough to visit when there were only a few people in the gallery, all moving from left to right then right back out the door. The works are hung along each wall, smaller works directly above others. If this layout does anything it enhances certain prominent pieces such as Boucher's Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arm and Jean-Baptiste Greuze's Head of a Sorrowful Woman. Other notable artists include Jean-Francois Millet and Francesco Panini.
Some of the drawings feel unfinished, as if the artist has just stepped away after a preliminary sketch. There is a particular image of a woman sewing that seemed this case. The view is a profile where the subject sits in a wooden chair, simple yet elegant.
There is a suggestion of a background, very little furniture and nothing on the walls. Her neck is bent down over her work, and you know if she has been at work for a while she aches. She wears a simple bonnet and cotton garment, completely focused on the project at hand. She is not alone in this show. There are not grand ladies and princes (nay they can be found at the next exhibition over, "Illuminating Fashion") but everyday men and women, even children.
Francesco Fontebasso, A Scene of Sacrifice. Pen and brown ink, over black chalk, on two
pieces of paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
Achille Michallon, Peasants Gathering Fruit near Naples, 1822, Pen and
brown ink and wash, over traces of black chalk. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
Jean-Baptiste Pillement, River Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats. 1797/98,
black and red chalk with watercolor.
Joan Taub Ades Collection.
One particularly captivating piece is River Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats by Jean-Baptiste Pillement. The painting was completed in 1797/8, inspired, no doubt, by the artist's new surroundings. When the French Revolution began, Pillement moved to south France, a move that proved not only to be an escape, but also inspirational.
The calm river flows through the landscape which is elevated by rocks and hills. Goats are herded across an uneasy bridge. The landscape is lovely and ideal, but incredibly muted against the reds and blues of the figures. The figures in the image pop, and only they stir, it seems, where no wind rustles trees, goats refuse to budge, and the river, lazy and slow, gently pushes a boat.
I moved along through the show at the same pace as the river, steady and slow. Absorbing all the fine details of line and shadow these artists have created. The figures in this collection are easy to connect with, and unless you are claustrophobic, you may find yourself wanting to take another turn around the room. Their humble dress and settings suggest they were not all people of great elegance, but the compositions and presentation prove the period was an age of elegance.
The Age of Elegance will be on view until August 28, 2011 so there is plenty of time to stop by!
If you can't make it, you can get the exhibition catalog here.