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Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum

January 30 - April 27, 2014

Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum will be on view at the Portland Museum of Art, January 30 through April 27, 2014. This exhibition presents 110 exceptional drawings and sketchbooks from the Brooklyn Museum's world-renowned collection of American art. This is a special opportunity to view a significant body of aesthetically remarkable and historically important drawings that, due to their light-sensitive materials, are rarely exhibited. Seventy-four artists are represented in the exhibition, including such famous hands as Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, William Trost Richards, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Violet Oakley, William Glackens, Edward Hopper, Marguerite Zorach, Stuart Davis, and Marsden Hartley. (right: J. Carroll Beckwith (American, 1852-1917) Portrait of Minnie Clark, 1890s, Charcoal and pastel on blue fibered laid paper, 22 3/8 x 18 1/4 inches. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of J. Carroll Beckwith.)

Dating from the late 18th through the mid-20th century, the featured drawings encompass a wide range of techniques, styles, and media, including graphite, ink, crayon, charcoal, and pastel. There are, for example, carefully transcribed anatomical, portrait, and nature studies; preparatory drawings showing an artist's working methods and conceptual processes; quick sketches capturing an artist's impressions of a motif; and highly finished compositions made for presentation or reproduction.

Fine Lines showcases drawing as a dynamic practice across nearly two centuries of American art. The exhibition is organized into six thematic sections devoted to enduring interests among American artists. This thematic installation also allows for instructive comparisons among artists of diverse periods and artistic approaches. Two sections feature the human figure: "Recording Anatomy" focuses on the nude body as a site of anatomical knowledge, artistic mastery, and emotional expression; and "Fashioning Character" on the clothed figure in which costume helps to construct identity. A section on portraiture, "Portraying Personalities," examines drawings that convey the distinctive appearance or personality of a sitter. "Telling Tales" considers narrative subjects and how artists craft a story through the integration of figures, objects, and setting. Natural and urban environments are the focus of two landscape sections -- "Exploring Nature" and "Observing the Built Environment," respectively -- which explore artists' perceptual, emotional, and aesthetic responses to the world around them. More broadly, Fine Lines provides insight into why artists draw -- as a step in the creative process, as a mode of documentation, as a vehicle for personal expression. Given the intimacy and immediacy of drawing, the exhibition will also investigate the distinctive properties of a variety of graphic materials and techniques.

Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, published by the Brooklyn Museum, featuring interpretive essays, illustrated object entries, and a section on the materials, techniques, and conservation of drawings. Karen Sherry is the author, with contributions by Caroline Gillaspie and Caitlin Jenkins. The catalogue is available in the PMA Store.

To view object labels for the exhibition, please click here.

To view wall panel texts for the exhibition, please click here.


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and biographical information on artists cited in this article in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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