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First Exhibition of Drawings by Greuze to Travel to the Getty Museum

Greuze the Draftsman brings together works from the Louvre, the Hermitage and other lenders worldwide

September 10-December 1, 2002
Press Preview: Tuesday, September 10, 2002, 9-11 a.m.

May 8, 2002

LOS ANGELES – Greuze the Draftsman, the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the drawings of the French master painter and draftsman Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805), will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from September 10 through December 1, 2002. Popular in his own time, Greuze remains indisputably one of France’s greatest draftsmen. The exhibition’s only other presentation is at The Frick Collection in New York from May 14 through August 4, 2002. Organized by The Frick Collection in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition brings together 70 remarkable drawings borrowed from both U.S. and European private and public collections, including works from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Two complementary exhibitions will be presented only at the Getty—one exploring Greuze’s paintings and the other representing French drawings by his contemporaries.

The exhibition includes drawings in all media, including chalk, ink, and pastel. These works explore a range of subjects, highlighting two of Greuze’s favorite topics: human expression and the drama of family life. Drawings on view that illustrate these themes include the theatrical The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son (about 1778) and the expressive Head of an Old Man (about 1755)—both from the Getty Museum’s collection. Also featured are 10 sheets from the State Hermitage Museum, purchased directly from the artist in 1767 by Ivan Ivanovitch Betskoy, a prominent dignitary in the circle of Catherine the Great.

"Greuze the Draftsman presents the extraordinary opportunity to showcase the technical brilliance and amazing variety of Greuze’s drawings for Los Angeles audiences," said Deborah Gribbon, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and vice president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. "Its unique presentation at the Getty, contextualized by complementary exhibitions, examines Greuze’s virtuosity as an artist in both drawing and painting."

Lee Hendrix, curator of drawings at the Getty Museum added, "The vivid, graceful, and theatrical portrayals of the human experience in the works of Greuze are instantly engaging. These drawings are sure to impress Getty visitors."

Exhibition Organization and Highlights

Greuze the Draftsman opens with a section devoted to the artist’s earliest works, including studies made using nude models at the Academie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts), during his student days in the early 1750s, followed by drawings executed in Rome during his sojourn from 1755 to 1757. Greuze’s fertile decade of the 1760s is recalled by preparatory studies for such celebrated paintings as A Marriage Contract, The Paralytic, and The Beloved Mother, as well as independent drawings created for discerning art collectors.

The exhibition also features Greuze’s experiments with historical subjects around 1767. Greuze had been provisionally accepted into the Academy as a painter of genre subjects, but he sought to change his designation to that of a history painter, the highest rank in the Academy. In 1769, Greuze submitted the painting Septimius Severus and Caracalla for consideration and was harshly criticized for this attempt to elevate his position. Greuze did not exhibit at the Salon for another 30 years. He returned to subjects from contemporary life but treated them in a new, grand manner, exemplified by the many drawings related to his The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son of 1777. Toward the end of the exhibition, the artist’s late years are marked by an interest in traditional religious subjects and portraits, where his skills as a pastelist are revealed.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the sensual Head of a Woman (about 1765). A tour de force of Greuze’s red chalk technique, the drawing captures a woman in the throes of ecstasy. Greuze rendered her hair languidly falling over her shoulders in long, independent strokes, and articulated her face with tiny, controlled hatched lines. This drawing is an example of Greuze’s expressive heads (têtes d’expression), which he made in order to capture the emotive power of his models. The painting Greuze made after this study will be on view in the Getty Museum’s related exhibition of Greuze’s paintings.

Another remarkable work in the exhibition is the Getty’s The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son. In this active scene of paternal torment, the father extends his hands in anger toward his son who has just enlisted in the army. A young girl kneeling in front of the father is trying to pacify him, while the mother embraces her son. On the threshold of the door, the recruiting sergeant contemplates the spectacle with indifference. The Father’s Curse exemplifies Greuze’s moralistic storytelling, which was in vogue in mid-18th-century painting partly as the result of the influence of English novels and the moralistic writings of authors such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

"It is the real world in all of its varied manifestations that Greuze captured in his endless catalogue of life," said Edgar Munhall, chief curator of The Frick Collection from 1965 to 1999 and guest curator of Greuze the Draftsman. "Had he lived a hundred years later, he would have been called a realist; had he lived two hundred years later, he would have been a great filmmaker."

Related Exhibitions

The Getty Museum will present the complementary exhibition Greuze the Painter: Los Angeles Works in Context concurrently with Greuze the Draftsman. Greuze the Painter highlights paintings by Greuze in Los Angeles museum collections and presents them with works from national and international lenders including the Louvre, the State Hermitage Museum, and The Frick Collection. The 12 paintings on view will span Greuze's career and illustrate main developments in his style. Highlights of the exhibition will include genre subjects such as The Wool Winder, lent by The Frick Collection for the first time, and the delightful Knitter Asleep, from the Huntington Art Collection, San Marino, California, that will be reunited with its pendant, the Young Schoolboy Asleep from the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France. Also on view will be emotional oil sketches such as the Getty Museum's Cimon and Pero (Roman Charity) and the study of the Head of a Woman from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, along with two late paintings from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Another exhibition on view concurrently to complement Greuze the Draftsman will be French Drawings in the Age of Greuze. The 18th century was France’s golden age of draftsmanship, with more artists achieving great technical ability in the art form than at any other time. This exhibition presents a survey of 18th-century French drawings from the Getty Museum’s collection. It features about 30 works by some of the century’s greatest painters such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, as well as those by some of the petits maîtres—18th-century French artists who concentrated on drawing rather than painting. French Drawings in the Age of Greuze surveys the entire century that opened with Antoine Watteau’s rococo fêtes galantes (literally "elegant parties") and closed with the dramatic neoclassical subjects of Jacques-Louis David.

Related Events

The Getty Museum will offer a range of related programs including lectures, Point-of-View Talks, and Artist-at-Work Demonstrations, in addition to a film series presented in partnership with the UCLA Film and Television Archive to be held in October 2002.

Related Publications

Edgar Munhall’s Greuze the Draftsman, a fully illustrated catalog that accompanies the exhibition, is the first publication devoted to Greuze’s work as a draftsman and the most comprehensive study on the artist since Munhall’s catalog for the 1976 exhibition Jean-Baptiste Greuze/1725–1805. Published by Merrell Publishers, London, Greuze the Draftsman (284 pages, hardcover $75.00, paperback $49.95) includes an introduction and summary biography of the artist by Munhall, as well as his entries on 96 works, all of which are reproduced in color, and many with additional comparative illustrations. The book also features an essay by Irina Novosselskaya, head of the department of European art of the State Hermitage Museum, recounting for the first time in English the history of its drawings by Greuze.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze: The Laundress (90 pages, paperback $17.95), published by the J. Paul Getty Museum, is a lively and engrossing book with 40 color and 32 black-and-white illustrations. Author Colin B. Bailey, chief curator of The Frick Collection, traces the history of the Getty’s The Laundress, Greuze’s painting that was exhibited to great acclaim in the Salon of 1761, and explores social mores and the role of the artist’s model in the 18th century. The book also provides an enlightening account of Greuze’s life and influences.

Both books are available in the Getty Museum Bookstore, online at www.getty.edu, or by calling 800-223-3431.

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