The superb collection of just 28 drawings, formed over some 40 years from the 1970s by the New York couple Howard and Saretta Barnet, is highly unusual in its combination of small overall size, great chronological span and exceptionally high quality. Selecting their drawings with razor-sharp aesthetic judgement, the Barnets assembled a group of drawings that told the whole story of five centuries of the art of drawing in Western Europe, though just 28 works, each of the very highest quality and beauty. Despite being very different from each other in date, geographical origin, technique, style and function, these drawings somehow all speak the same language, and reflect a powerful, consistent taste. Rarely has a more perfectly chosen collection been formed, in any collecting field.
The works cover nearly 500 years of Western art, from the superb early Renaissance landscape, drawn around 1500 by Fra Bartolommeo, to the rare and penetrating portrait of fellow-artist Balthus, drawn by Lucian Freud in 1989. In between these two bookends are magnificent drawings by the great 17th-century landscape master, Claude Lorrain, by the five top draughtsmen of 18th-century France and Italy (Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, Tiepolo, Guardi), by the most visionary of Spanish artists, Goya and Picasso, and by two of the giants of 19th-century French art, Ingres and Degas.
The sale offers not only a unique and liberating insight into what makes a great drawing, but also gives another generation of collectors the opportunity to acquire works of the very highest quality, which have been off the market for several decades. It forms part of a wider series of sales from the Barnet Collection, including Contemporary Art, African and Precolumbian Sculpture, 20th-century Design and Prints.