Two Drawing Shows Dazzle

Guercino, Bespectacled Man Reading a Book, 1630s-1640s. Princeton University Art Museum

The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College is presenting two wide-ranging shows of Western drawings. "500 Years of Italian Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum" is a touring exhibition drawn from one of the nation's best university collections. Complementing it is "Infinity on Paper: Drawings from the Collections of the Benton Museum of Art and Jack Shear."

Installation view, "500 Years of Italian Drawings"

Princeton's art museum is closed for construction of a new, David Adjaye-designed building (set to open in spring 2025). Hence "500 Years," the larger of the two exhibitions now at the Benton. Some 95 sheets span Michelangelo, Parmigianino, Pordenone, Luca Cambiaso, Paolo Veronese, Bernini, Guercino, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo, plus a number of secondary figures. It's really an Old Master show with a couple of Modiglianis thrown in to justify the title's 500 years. 

Lee Bontecou, untitled, 1968. Jack Shear Collection

"Infinity on Paper" supplies a contemporary perspective, though its 70 works actually deliver 600 years of drawings (early 1500s to now). It's built around the adventurous collection of artist Jack Shear, otherwise known as Ellsworth Kelly's widower. Shear finds magic in the mark-making of artists now unfashionable or not normally prized for their drawings. On view are extraordinary, sometimes boundary-testing works by John Singleton Copley (a study for Watson and the Shark), Edward Burne-Jones, Edvard Munch, Jan Toorop, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Alice Neel, and Lee Bontecou. The loans are supplemented by works from the Pomona College collection. 

Both exhibitions run through June 23, 2024. One drawback is that neither has wall texts identifying the artists. Instead, printed guides are available for gallery use. Can you appreciate a drawing without a famous name attached? That's one way of approaching these shows. On the other hand, this is a teaching museum, and not everyone knows a Gherardo Cibo when they're staring it in the face.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, Bust of a Youth, about 1530. Princeton University Art Museum
Michelangelo's Bust of a Youth is black-chalk study related to the more finished "ideal heads." 
Pordenone, Standing Saint Roche, about 1525-26. Princeton University Art Museum
When donated by Dan Fellows Platt in 1949, this squared red chalk drawing was assigned to Guercino. In the 1970s it was recognized as a rare work of Renaissance great Pordenone, a rival of Titian. The figure may be a self-portrait.

Speaking of Guercino, Platt and Princeton were ahead the curve in appreciating his drawings, including caricatures that look like they could have been made yesterday (see top of post).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Seated Male Nude, 1618-24. Princeton University Art Museum
Giambattista Tiepolo, Woman and Satyr, about 1740. Princeton University Art Museum
Installation view, "Infinity on Paper," with works by Kurt Schwitters, Henri Fantin-Latour, Ben Durham, and Manuel López. Photo: Jeff McLane
John Singleton Copley, Study for Watson and the Shark, 1777-78. Jack Shear Collection

Edvard Munch, Bleeding Heart, about 1898. Jack Shear Collection
Jan Toorop, Meditation, 1921. Jack Shear Collection
Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Composition, 1930. Jack Shear Collection
Reginald Marsh, Coney Island Beach, 1944. Pomona College Collection
Manuel López, El Pato, La Morena, plants and a drawing (Large Study), 2021. Pomona College Collection


That "Bespectacled Man Reading a Book", 1630s-1640s, is so NOW, it could have been drawn by the guy sitting next to me on the "A" train.
They don't call Baroque art early modern for nothing.