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Exhibitions | Past

Masterworks from the Morgan

Image of Bonet binding
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Binding by Paul Bonet, 1959
On: André Suarès, Cirque
Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1939 [but unpublished]
Purchased as the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hans P. Kraus, 1979
PML 76385

Masterworks from the Morgan

Masterworks from the Morgan presented more than three hundred masterworks drawn from all six of the Morgan's collection areas, including new acquisitions and works that have never been seen or have not been exhibited for many years. On view were the finest, rarest, and most beautiful examples of master drawings and prints from the past five centuries; medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts; literary, historical, and music manuscripts; rare printed books; and ancient Near Eastern pictorial seals.

Drawings
April 29 through July 2, 2006

The drawings exhibition comprised approximately one hundred works from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, highlighting the breadth and depth of the Morgan's holdings. The exhibition chronicled the history of the Morgan's collection, as it contained works from the initial group of drawings purchased by Pierpont Morgan in 1909 to notable acquisitions and gifts since the institution's founding in 1924 to works acquired in the previous several years.

Most of the works in the exhibition were presented by school, with large sections dedicated to Italian, French, and Netherlandish and Flemish drawings and a smaller contingent of works by British, Spanish, and German artists. The concluding section consisted of modern drawings by late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century artists. Works on view included drawings by sixteenth-century Italian artists, such as Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo; seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish masters Rembrandt and Rubens; eighteenth-century French and Italian artists, such as Watteau and Tiepolo; and nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists, such as Cézanne, Delacroix, Degas, Picasso, and Pollock.

Important examples included one of only four Jacopo da Pontormo drawings in America, Standing Male Nude Seen from the Back and Two Seated Nudes (1517–21); Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve (1504), one of the most important drawings by this seminal German artist; Hendrick Goltzius's Young Man Holding a Skull and a Tulip (1614), an iconic drawing by the draftsman and engraver and one of the most requested by visitors; and Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn's The Bulwark de Rose and the Windmill de Smeerpot (ca. 1649–52), by far the most important landscape by Rembrandt in the collection and one of the finest of his existing Amsterdam views.

Other works included Jean-Antoine Watteau's Two Studies of the Head and Shoulders of a Little Girl (ca. 1717), a masterpiece in the trios-crayon technique by the most influential of eighteenth-century French draftsmen, whose name is synonymous with the rococo; Thomas Gainsborough's Study of a Lady (ca. 1785), a complex and technically virtuosic study by one of the most significant English portrait painters of the eighteenth century; Pablo Picasso's Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter (1936), an emotionally insightful and technically brilliant pen-and-ink study of the artist's lover; and two recent acquisitions never before seen at the Morgan—Erich Heckel's Seated Man (Self-Portrait) (1912), and Juan Gris's Man with Opera Hat (1912).

Literary and Historical Manuscripts
April 29 through September 3, 2006

The installation of literary and historical manuscripts presented a wide range of items—from complete manuscripts and working drafts of poetry and prose to correspondence, journals, and other documents—by major European and American authors, artists, scientists, and historical figures from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries. It was organized with particular attention to what manuscripts reveal about the creative process.

The items on view in this presentation were grouped to illustrate the role of manuscripts in the development of finished works. Notes and sketches that precede composition included Charles Dickens's outlines for Our Mutual Friend and Galileo's research notes for an astronomical treatise. Private writings included juvenile works of the four Brontë siblings and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. Manuscript drafts that show works in progress included Oscar Wilde's play An Ideal Husband and Bob Dylan's lyrics for the song "It Ain't Me, Babe." Manuscripts that made their way to the printer included Edgar Allan Poe's "Tale of the Ragged Mountains," Jane Austen's Lady Susan, and Ezra Pound's Guido Cavalcanti, shown in corrected proof. Private letters revealed Willa Cather's nostalgia for a character in The Song of a Lark and Renaissance architect Bartolomeo Ammannati's role in Michelangelo's design for the Laurentian Library in Florence.

Among the works on view for the first time at the Morgan were notes and author-corrected galleys of interviews with Ernest Hemingway and Toni Morrison from The Paris Review Archives; watercolor studies and drafts from Jean de Brunhoff's The Story of Babar, which was in the hands of the de Brunhoff family and not available to scholars or the public until it was acquired by the Morgan in 2004; and Dylan Thomas's heavily corrected manuscript of "Lament," one of his greatest and last poems.

Music Manuscripts and Books
April 29 through September 3, 2006

The Morgan's collection of autograph music manuscripts is unequaled in diversity and quality in this country. The Morgan also owns a large collection of musicians' letters and a small but growing collection of first and early editions of scores and librettos. The collection spans six centuries and many countries, with particular strengths in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.

The composers represented in the installation ranged from Johann Sebastian Bach to John Cage. The manuscripts show the diversity and depth of the Morgan's music collection and were organized into five different sections. Visitors could hear recordings of selected works at music listening stations throughout the exhibition.

The Opera section included a printed libretto with autograph annotations of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Orchestral and Concerto included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's autograph manuscript of the full score of Symphony no. 35 in D ("Haffner"), as well as Gustav Mahler's autograph manuscript of Symphony no. 5. Chamber Music features Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Trio, op. 70, no. 1 ("Geister"). Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53, by Frédéric Chopin was an example of the works in the Keyboard section. Song and Choral Music included an autograph manuscript of the full score of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder.

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
April 29 through September 10, 2006

Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are a cornerstone of the Morgan's collection. Spanning some ten centuries of Western illumination, this area of the collection includes more than eleven hundred manuscripts, as well as papyri. Arranged chronologically, the installation of approximately two dozen works formed a concise history of manuscript illumination, or what could be called the "age of vellum," sandwiched between that of papyrus and paper. Examples represented the main periods of art history, starting with the Carolingian and continuing with the Ottonian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance.

The exhibition included such unrivaled works as the Reims Gospel Book, the Morgan's finest Carolingian manuscript, written in gold about 860 at the Abbey of Saint-Rémi. Also on viewwasis the Mont-Saint-Michel Sacramentary (ca. 1060), the most lavishly illuminated surviving manuscript from the French island abbey; the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, painted about 1440 by the artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves and regarded as the most gifted and original artist of the golden age of Dutch manuscript painting; and the Farnese Hours (1546), the most famous Renaissance manuscript by Giulio Clovio, a Croatian praised by Vasari as a Michelangelo of smaller works. Also on view were the Morgan's thirty-five hand-painted tarot cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck by Bonifacio Bembo and family (ca.1450). The cards form the most complete and one of the earliest and most important fifteenth-century sets known. They were all on display together at the Morgan for the first time in more than twenty years.

Printed Books and Bindings
April 29 through September 10, 2006

The installation of printed books and bindings showcased the Morgan's diverse and exceptional collection. Some of the books on view were noteworthy for their original artwork, special bindings, or manuscript additions that show the author at work. Others were included because they are so rare that they could be called one of a kind. Although printed in quantity and intended for wide distribution, some books have almost entirely disappeared, victims of neglect, incompetence, censorship, and evolving tastes.

Examples on view included one of only two surviving copies of the first edition of Malory's stories of King Arthur (1485); an embroidered binding made in England in 1599 for a printed Bible; Paul Bonet's 1959 designer binding for André Suarès's Cirque; one of the Morgan's three Gutenberg Bibles (ca. 1455), the first book printed from movable type; Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1872) with proofs of Tenniel's annotations; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), annotated by the author; a 1907 printing of William Shakespeare's King Richard II annotated by D. H. Lawrence and Jessie Chambers; and Oscar Wilde's Vera, or the Nihilist (1882) with additions and revisions in the hand of the author.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.