Drawn to Excellence features eighty-six sheets created by seventy artists working primarily in Italy and France between 1500 and the 1830s. These works are from the outstanding American collection of a Smith alumna who is widely known for her discernment, connoisseurship, and generosity. The works in this exhibition represent only a portion of the collector’s holdings. An ardent supporter of museums in both the U.S. and abroad, she has built her world-class collection over a brief sixteen-year period. Her devotion to the study of drawings and her willingness to lend works from her collection to public institutions has greatly expanded the available knowledge on these precious works of art.
Although the collection extends into the mid-20th century, most of the works date to between the 16th and early 19th centuries. The collection is predominantly Italian, and many of the collector’s early acquisitions were of 18th century Italian drawings. The collector often favors works with well-documented provenance (history of ownership), and eschews collecting by artist name. The guiding principles are the collector’s personal taste and her desire to take advantage of the best opportunities at hand. She lives with her drawings, displaying them in her home where they are hung salon-style and ordered roughly by national school and chronology. She also delights in sharing her collection with knowledgeable and interested viewers, and we are grateful that she has allowed SCMA to extend this circle through this exhibition.
The works included in Drawn to Excellence were specifically chosen to show the strength rather than the breadth of the collection, and were also selected to dovetail with the course ARH 240: French and Italian Drawings: Renaissance through Romanticism, taught by the 2012 Ruth and Clarence Kennedy Professor of Renaissance Studies, Suzanne McCullagh (Smith class of 1973).
Image Credit: Bartolomeo Cesi. Bologna 1556–1629 Bologna. A Striding Youth Carrying a Bundle of Sticksverso, A Veiled Woman Praying,1591/94. Red and white chalk on blue paper; verso, red chalk. 13 3/8 x 8 5/8 in.; 340 x 220 mm. Private Treasures,cat. 26.