Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taft Presents Exquisite Drawings from New York Historical Society

Not too long ago you could find me quickly breezing past landscape paintings as simply another collection of mountains and seas. But within the past few years I've grown a strong admiration for 17th Century Dutch art traditions. In fact, I'm not sure yet which I enjoy more, the landscape, genre painting, or the portraiture. I'm most interested in the social commentary of the period that each painting provides, but certainly the exquisite detail of a lace collar or crystal stemware catches my eye. It is a similar visual treasure trove of Drawn By New York: Watercolors and Drawings from the New York Historical Society that enrapt me and nearly brought me tears during its opening at the Taft Museum of Art.

Drawn By New York includes drawings by a number of well-known artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and John Singer Sargent, and the museum is sure to try to entice a larger audience with these big names. However, the Taft has done an exceptional job of choosing only about 80 works from the New York Historical Society that these big names are not what will awe or inspire you.

The detail of these drawings and watercolors effectively compete with the information on the labels. As much as I wanted to read about each of the drawings, less than half way through the exhibition, I stopped reading and simply looked. It was this letting go of the text that helped make this journey through American history an emotional one.

Like 17th Century Dutch Art, the drawings of Drawn By New York tell a visually detailed story of our history and presents a commentary on our culture that is sometimes critical, sometimes celebratory, but certainly American.