Office of Communications
Stanhope Hall
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301

For immediate release: May 7, 2002

Contact: Ruta Smithson (609) 258-3763, rutas@Princeton.EDU

American drawings on view at Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition Dates: April 13 through July 21, 2002

PRINCETON, NJ -- A collection of 23 works on paper are featured in the exhibition "American Drawings and Watercolors: Gifts of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953," on view at the Princeton University Art Museum through July 21, 2002.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Leonard L. Milberg initiated a series of gifts of American works on paper to the Graphic Arts Division of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library, and during the last two decades has been a generous donor to the Princeton University Art Museum.

"Milberg's gifts as a group were acquired out of no predetermined program, and thus provide a loose survey of American graphic art from the Colonial period to the twentieth century," writes John Wilmerding, the Christopher Binyon Sarofim '86 Professor in American Art, in an introduction to the exhibition.

These works, which often fill notable gaps in the collection, share a strong sense of quality and are an interesting mix of figure and landscape drawings. The earliest in the first category is Benjamin West's bold ink wash study of King David, dating probably from the period of the artist's mature "heroic" style of the 1770s and 1780s. The works by Nicolino Calyo and David Claypoole Johnson represent charming early nineteenth-century character types and caricatures, while the 1841 watercolors of Capucin monks are well-observed individual studies by John William Casilear, better known for his landscape work as a member of the Hudson River school. This interest in genre subjects of ordinary people and everyday life extends to the remarkably dynamic pastel of a New York City winter street scene from 1935 by the Ash Can artist Everett Shinn.

An even greater strength of this collection is the breadth of American landscapes, presented here in a variety of graphic techniques, from pencil, gouache, and chalk to monochromatic washes and brilliant pure watercolors. Of particular interest is the early group of topographic views by English-born or inspired painters, such as William Constable, John William Hill, and John Latrobe. Hill's large watercolor of Boston Harbor from the mid-nineteenth century is especially important for its precise rendering of the cityscape and spacious panorama, meticulously finished for translation into an engraving of the same size. The broad range of Hudson River school drawings is well represented in the watercolor by Thomas Doughty from the first generation, and the landscapes at home and abroad by such second-generation painters as John William Casilear, David Johnson, and John F. Kensett. Complementing these works are the near luminist view of the Mississippi by the western artist Seth Eastman, the sensitive and delicate pre-Raphaelite watercolor by Henry Farrer, and the radiant example of pure luminism in William Trost Richards's watercolor of Atlantic City. The sequence ends chronologically with the brilliantly colored plein air study of a Tahitian bay by John La Farge, with working palette samples along its margin.

Altogether, these images provide an insight into the observation and vision of American artists, their working processes, and the role of drawings and watercolors as preliminary studies as well as finished works in their own right. They reveal the American artist's continuing celebration both of individuals and nature, and are expressions of down-to-earth realism and visual expansiveness.

The exhibition, which includes works lent by Firestone Library, accompanies the course Art 211, "Major Figures in American Art," taught in spring 2002 by Professor Wilmerding. Additional works given by

Leonard L. Milberg are on view in the exhibition "Heroic Pastorals: Images of the American Landscape," in the Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library, through October 6.

The art museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The museum, located in the middle of the Princeton University campus, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The Museum Shop closes at 5:00 p.m. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788 or visit our new Web site at www.princetonartmuseum.org.

top     back     home