Guercino (Cento 1591–Bologna 1666). The Triumph of Galatea, Pen and brown ink with brown wash, squared in black chalk, with later framing lines in pen and brown ink.

Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection, at the Smith College Museum of Art, September 28, 2012 – January 6, 2013

If you wander around Sotheby’s and Christie’s during old master week with open ears, or if you converse a bit at a conference like the delightful and enlightening symposium held for the inauguration of the present exhibition, you are likely to hear some words about the disappearance of good drawings from the market, the ongoing retirement of dealers, the paucity of new ones to take their place, the scarcity of collectors, the resistance of museum directors and boards to these elitist and esoteric artworks, and, ultimately, the demise of the collecting of old master drawings—whereupon the interlocutors stare into space, as if they were on the deck of the sinking Titanic. If this were true, drawings would always continue to be available to the public and scholars, but the heart of the organism would be dead. The circulation of fresh blood—i.e. drawings—would have ceased.

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