Le plaisir au dessin

Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, from October 12, 2007 to January 14, 2008.

1. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
Seascape—rough seas, a squall, c. 1825
Watercolour - 18,1 x 29,2 cm
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The exhibition currently showing at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon is clearly inspired by the “cartes blanches” project organized by the Louvre a few years ago for contemporary artists and writers. The guest commissioner is the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, with the assistance of Sylvie Ramond, director of the museum, and Eric Pagliano, cultural heritage curator who is also with the INHA. This type of exhibition can easily become arcane, pompous, pretentious, even ridiculous. It is not the case here. We will not discuss the ideas behind the exhibition, as the author of these lines is admittedly a poor student of philosophy. We will simply point out that the catalogue is well edited and offers a rich selection of essays of which Eric Pagliano’s on erasures in drawing is particularly interesting. The focus of our review is on the quality of the works on display and the fact that many of them are not well-known, some totally unfamiliar. Although we will limit ourselves to this aspect, it is obvious that it is not the main purpose of the show. However, readers of The Art Tribune can thus see for themselves that the exhibition and the catalogue successfully combine a philosophical approach and a real exercise in art history.

2. Ascribed to Giovanni Antonio Bazzi,
known as il Sodoma (1477-1549)
The Vestal Virgin Tarpeia Beaten by Tatius’ soldiers
Red chalk - 40 x 22,9 cm
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de Franc

3. Ferraù Fenzoni (1562-1645)
Annunciation Virgin
Black and red chalk, heightened whith white chalk - 34,3 x 21,3 cm
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The most amazing discoveries come from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Drawings are not the primary concern of this institution which owns a very rich and yet confidential collection. The fact that one can find there a watercolour by Turner (ill. 1), when France owns so few, is extraordinary. This one was bequeathed to the BnF in 1943, a date which perhaps explains why this gift went unnoticed. It had been overlooked in the inventory drawn up by Oliver Meslay. Likewise, packed away in a store room, Eric Pagliano was able to identify a red chalk drawing ascribed in great likelihood to Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known as Il Sodoma (ill. 2), one of the most important artists in Sienna of the first half of the XVIth C. as well as a drawing by Ferrau Fenzoni, an attribution which was confirmed by Nicolas Schwed, author of the recent monographic study on the artist. This Virgin (ill. 3) is a preparation for the fresco of the Annunciation in the cathedral in Todi, but which has since been destroyed.

4. Michel-François Dandré-Bardon
Man in Draped Gown Holding a Club
Red chalk, heightened with white chalk - 31,5 x 22,3 cm
Grenoble, Musée

Another large ensemble of works from Grenoble that are also practically unknown, but for which a catalogue is in preparation, includes a large drawing by Dandré-Bardon (ill. 4), ascribed by Eric Pagliano. Jean-Christophe Baudequin has found resemblances with the figure of Augustus in Augustus Punishing the Corrupt Officials, a large canvas which unfortunately is very damaged, held at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. A drawing by Flaminio Torri, Two Figures Lifting a Drape To Look at a Female Nude on a Couch, is also a discovery from Grenoble.
Among the drawings that have never been reproduced or displayed previously, there is a Study of Warriors by François Rude (Dijon, MBA), a Man Holding a Horse by the Bridle by Volterrano (Grenoble, Museum) and Two Heads of a Bearded Man in Profile by Pietro Faccini (Poitiers, Musée Saint-Croix). These last two are included in recent catalogues on Seicento Italian drawings in French museums.

5. Laurent Pariente (born 1962)
No title, Self-portrait, 1999
Graphite - 65 x 50 cm
Amiens, Frac Picardie

In concluding this brief and partial review, we would like to pay special notice to the interesting XXth C. drawings presented in the show especially in their comparison to old ones which are almost always pertinent. In a break with tradition, we reproduce here a work of a living artist (ill. 5). The effect of the lines, apparently drawn at random, results not only in a beautiful rendition but also achieves a self-portrait of the artist. This virtuosity recalls that of Claude Mellan who, with a single stroke traced The Holy Face.

Jean-Luc Nancy, Eric Pagliano, Sylvie Ramond, Lizzie Boubli, Georges Didi-Huberman, Le plaisir au dessin, Hazan, 2007, 240 p., 39 €. ISBN : 978-2-7541-0246-9.

Visitor informaion : Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 20, place des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon. Exhibitions entrance : 16, rue Edouard Herriot. Phone : + 33 (0) Open Wednesday to Monday 10 am through 6 pm, Friday 10.30 am through 6 pm. Admission : 6 € - 4 €.

Didier Rykner, dimanche 14 octobre 2007

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