Lines of Beauty

French Master Drawings from the Louvre

21 February 2008 - 21 March 2008

At the exhibition opening on 21st February at the Museum of Fine Arts the Hungarian public will have the opportunity to see the most beautiful French drawings of the Louvre. In the exhibition, entitled Lines of Beauty, French master drawings from the Louvre will enchant visitors with over 80 masterpieces by 55 artists until the middle of May. The exhibition came into being as a result of unprecedented cooperation between the Parisian and Budapest institutions, and in exchange for the French works of art an exhibition will open in the Louvre in autumn 2008 of works selected from the Museum of Fine Arts' collection of Dutch drawings.

The number of old French works to be found in the Graphic Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts is indisputably rich by European comparison but is not sufficient to provide the visitor with a full picture of the French masterpieces of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the guest exhibition that is now opening will allow the Hungarian public to become acquainted with the most significant artists and works of the period. The material is a display of works from the French school, spanning from the death of Henry IV through the outbreak of the French Revolution to the coronation of the Emperor Napoleon, and thus encompasses the period from 1610 to 1804. The eighty-five drawings provide an almost complete picture of how French society developed during these two centuries. The pace of change was rapid, concepts came into being, proliferated and had an influence on one another with conflicting aesthetic trends following one another.

Francois Boucher (1703-1770): Nymph by an Urn
Francois Boucher (1703-1770): Nymph by an Urn

Within the framework of a cooperative effort that is without example in the history of the Museum of Fine Arts the experts of the museums of Paris and Budapest worked together to select the most beautiful drawings of the Louvre in this period for the Museum of Fine Arts: the works are those of renowned artists (Poussin, Watteau, Boucher, David) and of virtuosic masters (Vouet, Lemoyne vagy Greuze). While making the selection, particular attention was paid to those artists whose works also form part of the Budapest collection (Verdier, Boissieu, André Le Brun).

This comprehensive exhibition of two centuries of French graphic art, which is both chronological and thematic, displays choice works of art. The most prominent artists are featured with selections of their plates, thus illustrating the multifaceted talent of the representatives of this functionally and technically diverse genre. The exhibited works of art are not only arranged into groups chronologically and according to their theme but also by what schools and trends they originate from. In addition, the visitor to the exhibition will be able to form a picture of the artistic centres from where the works emerged.

The exhibition is divided up into 11 parts. It begins with a display of French Mannerist works from the Lorraine School (from Nancy to Paris), followed by two French artists with ties to Rome, Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The next part displays works from the Baroque to the Greek Classical style known as the Parisian Atticism, and is followed by the section entitled From Paris to Versailles: major decorations, presenting among others the prolific work of Le Brun. Here the visitor is presented with a picture of the graphic art of the first half of the 17th century, the Parisian decorations under the Regency and the exquisite Rococo drawings of Watteau. After the part of the exhibition that deals with the traditions of religious themes the works linked to academic education and the pre-eminent representatives of the trend called graceful manner are displayed. The closing parts of the exhibition contain urban and rustic genre paintings and landscape drawings, and then the exhibition is brought to a close by two aesthetically opposed trends through the works of the representatives of the Neo-Baroque and Neo-Classicism (e.g. Doyen, David).

Antoine Watteau (1684-1721): Eight Studies of Heads of Woman, and Head of Man
Antoine Watteau (1684-1721): Eight Studies of Heads of Woman, and Head of Man

The history of Louvre's exceptionally rich collection of graphic art began in the 17th century with its core formed by the Cabinet du roi, which was the graphic art collection of the Sun King Louis XIV. After lengthy bargaining the ruler purchased the important graphic art collection of the art collector Everhard Jabach in 1671, and this was placed in the portrait collection which had been continuously enriched by the king's predecessors. The collection was later augmented by the estates of the artists Le Brun, Mignard and Coypel. The time became ripe to bring together the king's collections in the 18th century in the building of the Louvre Palace building, an endeavour started by Louis XVI. During the French revolution the Cabinet du roi was transformed into the Louvre museum's collection of graphic art and expanded yet further by the addition of confiscated material. Through donations, estates and purchases over a period of more than two centuries, from 1804 to the present day, the graphic art collection of the Louvre has become complete.

The curator of the exhibition is Andrea Czére, the Museum of Fine Arts' Deputy Director-General.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of Le Meridien Budapest and Air France.