The Old Master drawings collection is a celebration of the act of drawing. The scope of periods, media, and styles represented is both broad and bold. The selected artists range from François Boucher to Anonymous. The collection encompasses an impressive selection and wide range of genre and artists, including École Française, École Italienne, Dutch, Flemish, and British material from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Although the artists who created them never intended for their drawings to be collected – seeing them as mere sketches to be discarded – these sheets have, in modern times, come to be considered complete works in and of themselves. Beginning in Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century, this inspired trend to enjoy these thoughtful and often times emotive gestures put down on paper spawned a rich tradition of collecting.
This tradition has, in turn, provided a glimpse into the private understandings of the artists themselves. This has allowed people to experience the thought processes behind the works of such masters as Michelangelo, da Vinci, and David. Thus, these revealing sheets expose facets of the “artist” never otherwise accessible.
Though drawings have been appreciated since the Renaissance, the tradition of connoisseurship had not begun until the eve of the 18th century. In 1910, America gained its first significant drawings collection when financier and collector Pierpont Morgan brought Charles Fairfax Murphy’s impressive collection of Old Master drawings to New York. This acquisition included the works of such artists as Nicholas Poussin and Honoré Fragonard. Today, this legacy of connoisseurship continues with Masterworks and the debut of its Master Drawings Collection.