I n a subtly new look at works on paper, this sale highlights, through a carefully selected group of works spanning almost five centuries, the immense variety of techniques, media and styles employed by artists working on paper and other related supports such as vellum, and also sheds light on the many purposes that these drawings, watercolours, gouaches and pastels served.
The key works originate from several very different, private collections, and from artistic milieus ranging from the Late Medieval Royal Courts of Central Europe to the isolated rural Visionaries of early 19th-century England.
A Fine Line | Royal Academy President Rebecca Salter on the Intimacy of Drawing
We are delighted to present for sale works from the private collection of the late Cyril and Shirley Fry. Huon Mallalieu, art historian, writer and friend of the Frys’ for many years, sheds light on their world; the successful running of the Fry Gallery in the heart of St James's, their aims as collectors and their overriding passion for drawings and watercolours.
Hans Hoffmann, A Hare
During the last quarter of the 16th century, the Nuremberg artist Hans Hoffmann made a remarkable group of gouaches and watercolours of animals, birds and plants that are some of the most accomplished and simply beautiful representations of the natural world produced anywhere in Europe during the early modern period. This touching depiction of a Hare is one of his finest works of this type, and has been appreciated and owned by a remarkable series of leading collectors of drawings, ever since it was made in 1582.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens, A double-sided sheet of figure studies
This newly-discovered, double-sided drawing has been confirmed by the leading scholars as a surviving sheet from a hugely important notebook that Sir Peter Paul Rubens carried with him everywhere for some fifteen years, early in his career, filling its pages with a wide range of drawings, notes and texts that reveal the artist’s views on everything from optics, symmetry, proportions and anatomy to architecture, and even human consciousness. The notebook rapidly became famous, but was tragically destroyed in a fire in 1720, when in the possession of Louis XIV’s cabinet-maker, André-Charles Boulle. Just two other leaves from the notebook are known to have survived.
Drawings from the Collection of Carlos Alberto Cruz
As a collector, Chilean architect Carlos Alberto Cruz, founder of The Apelles Collection, has wide-ranging interests that include Colonial Silver, Twentieth-Century Photography, incunabula and manuscripts, medieval liturgical objects, and contemporary Latin American art.
When, in the early 1990s, his attention was captured by Golden Age Spain in all its cultural aspects, he was one of a tiny minority of collectors looking at Spanish drawings. His activity played an important role in the increasing prominence of the Spanish Golden Age, and coincided with a growing number of international exhibitions to which he lent generously.
This was a new Golden Age, one of scholarly and museological interest - outside and inside of Iberia - in the visual arts of Spain. With greater subtlety and depth than ever before, Golden Age Spanish Art occupies an increasingly prominent place in the panorama of art history and collecting. Mr Cruz recognised that in an Italo-centric art historical discourse, Spanish visual arts were somehow “other” and it was their distinctive qualities - sometimes emphatic, sometimes restrained - that merited his special interest. It is an historical fact that many surviving Spanish drawings reveal a past in which they were studied in painters' workshops, not the cabinets of connoisseurs. Very often, drawings first belonged to and were passed between collections of practising artists, and they existed in the context of the working studio, where they might play a significant part in the creative process.
The connoisseurship and enjoyment of drawings has been likened to the musical taste that prefers chamber music to symphonies. In this sense, appreciation of the delicate intimacy, varied purposes and aesthetic life of Spanish drawings has marked the Cruz collection as one of singular taste and discernment.
More drawings from the Collection of Carlos Alberto Cruz will be offered here: https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/old-master-british-works-on-paper
The Grand Tour is commonly associated with aristocratic British travellers, but as the eighteenth century progressed, more and more artists set out for Rome. Mark Griffith-Jones explains further, looking in particular at the experiences of Thomas Patch, Richard Wilson and Francis Towne – whose work is featured in this auction.