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Vulcan Building a Fence Around the Mount of Venus, by the Circle of Giovanni Bellini, ca. 1430–1516

Old Master’s at the Met

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The Met has a new exhibit of drawings by some of the most famous artists from the 15th through 20th centuries. Numerous artists who are included feature drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibit will run through January 7, 2018.

Titled from “Leonardo to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection,” 60 masterpieces of European drawing spanning the Renaissance to the Modern age are on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It is the first presentation to highlight the full range of Robert Lehman’s vast and distinguished drawings collection. The exhibition traces the development of European drawings across five centuries, through works by celebrated masters.

The exhibition also presents a dynamic array of styles, techniques and genres – from compositional studies for mythological and Biblical narratives to panoramic landscapes and arresting studies of the human form. The selection also illustrates the different facets of the artists’ creative processes, such as da Vinci’s keen anatomical observation in his Study of a Bear Walking, to Rembrandt’s re-interpretation of Leonardo’s painted masterpiece, The Last Supper.

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The selection of drawings on view reflect significant developments in the medium between the 15th and 20th centuries, as styles, techniques and genres evolved, evoking illuminating comparisons across regions and eras. The portraits, figure studies, landscapes, mythological and Biblical narratives included in the exhibition represent diverse sacred and secular subjects in media ranging from metal point, pen and ink and chalk to graphite, pastel and charcoal.

The role of drawing as the foundation of all the visual arts is illustrated by numerous preparatory studies for painting, sculpture, textiles, engraving and stained glass, including rare 15th century Netherlandish designs for a carved capital and tapestry. Elucidating the varying stages of the design process, the works on view include rapid preliminary sketches, detailed studies of motifs, expansive compositional designs and finished drawings intended for patrons.

Robert Lehman bought his first drawings in the 1920s, adding works on paper to his father’s distinguished painting collection. He began with rare sheets by Italian masters and continued to acquire drawings for the next half century, principally in the field of Italian art. By his death in 1969, the drawings collection numbered more than 700 sheets.

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