Marking the first time that Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art has ever lent a complete exhibtion to any institution in Oklahoma, Vernet to Villion: Nineteenth-Century French Master Drawings from the National Gallery of Art features thirty works from one of the world's most distinguished drawings collections and represents an extraordinary act of generosity on the National Gallery's part to both our university and our state. The project began in 2004 when I telephoned Andrew Robison, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Art, and presented my ideas for an exhibtion of nineteenth-century French drawings from the Gallery's collection to be held at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. The very next day, he and Margaret (Meg) Morgan Grasselli, Curator of Old Master Drawings, most graciously met at length with me. Within a matter of days, Meg had compiled a list of works that could be made available for loan and laid out the drawings so we could go through them together, make an initial selection, and give shape and substance to the prospective exhibition. So consistently important and astute was Meg's contribution to this process that I asked her to be the exhibition's official co-curator, and our collaboration over several years–most recently preparing the catalogue–has been an absolute joy. Her exceptionally generous donation of time and expertise is something for which we at the University of Oklahoma are profoundly grateful.
The roster of drawings to be included in the show evolved and changed somewhat over the following seven years, often embracing new acquisitions made by the Gallery, and the selection was not finialized until just last year. The exhibition not only presents works by such world-class names as Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix, Degas, Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec, but also includes splendid drawings by such suberb, though less famous individuals as Constant Troyon, Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, and Rosa Bonheur (one of the nineteenth-century's finest women artists and highly acclaimed in her own time). With outstanding artistic quality constantly being our principal concern, Meg and I have selected an exhibition that covers most of the nineteenth-century's historically significant stylistic categories, from classicism, romanticism, and realism, to impressionism and post-impressionism. The works present a rich diversity of styles, subjects, and media, and include a refreshing array of sketches, preparatory studies, and highly finished pieces. The catalogue entries that follow discuss the exhibition's artists and their works in a generally chronological order based on the date of the individual drawings.
From the preface, written by Victor Koshkin-Youritzin,
David Ross Boyd Professor of Art History, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
View a preview of this exhibition catalog below.