Master Drawings at the
Art Institute of Chicago

When the Art Institute of Chicago received a monumental gift of near 4,000 drawings from the Gurley family in 1922, it established the basis for the massive collection of master drawings that the institution has continued to cultivate over the past 90 years. The museum's new exhibition, entitled "Master Drawings Unveiled: 25 Years of Major Acquisitions," which launched on 27 August pays homage to this rich assortment of world-class drawings that span the course of history. 


François Boucher, Academic Study of a Reclining Male Nude, c. 1750. Black and red chalk, heightened with white chalk, on cream laid paper.

What this showcase also reveals, though, is the importance of drawing in the development of artistic techniques. On the one hand, it reveals how artists develop and refine their styles from student to professional studio. On the other hand, these drawings offer a progression of new art movements, as they capture the artist's thinking process. By reading these images, the viewer can thus get a better understanding of where the big steps forward in art history occurred and how the artists who initiated those steps got started themselves.


Gustave Caillebotte. Study for Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877. Graphite with touches of charcoal on tan, moderately textured handmade laid paper.

Boucher's Academic Study of a Reclining Male Nude, for example, tells the story of a traditionally trained painter who channeled this expertise into some of the most beloved works of the Rococo period. At the same time, Gustave Caillebotte's Study for Paris Street; Rainy Day narrates the evolution of one of Impressionism's most captivating views of the French capital city.


Jean Delville. Medusa, 1893. Colored pencils and wax crayons, with pen and blue ink, brush and gold paint and blue gouache, over graphite, on yellow wove paper.

From Italianate interiors to moving self portraits, the range of images are, for the most part, being shown for the first time since their acquisition by the museum over the course of the past 25 years. As such, they are a sort of untouched time capsule, not only of the Art Institute's vast holdings, but also of the brilliance of artistic production from the 17th century to the present day.


Dame Laura Johnson Knight. Study of a Young Woman, 1926. Watercolor, pastel, and charcoal on ivory laid paper.

"Master Drawings Unveiled" will remain on view at the Art Institute of Chicago until January 29th, 2017. For more on the exhibition, please visit the Art Institute's website. Have you visited the exhibition? Tell us about it! Save Save Save Save Save

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