Poussin, Claude, and French Drawing in the Classical Age

June 16 through October 15, 2017

The French refer to the seventeenth century as the Grand Siècle, or the Great Century, an era of divine rule under the reigns of Louis XII and Louis XIV. The kings, their powerful advisors, and the royal court ensured a flourishing of the arts, and the establishment of official academies encouraged the practice and teaching of drawing as a critical element of the creative process.

With an exceptional selection of more than fifty drawings from the Morgan's collection, this exhibition investigates the dual interests in classicism and naturalism in drawings during this era in which French-born artists rose to prominence at home and abroad. Practitioners such as Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, Jacques Callot, Charles Le Brun, and others brought a distinctive approach to the style and subject matter of their drawings, informed by principles of rationalism, a profound respect for classical antiquity, and an understanding of the natural world elevated by divine order.

Poussin, Claude, and French Drawing in the Classical Age is made possible with generous support from the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and the estate of Alex Gordon.

Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), The Holy Family on the Steps, pen and brown ink, brown wash, with touches of gray wash, over black chalk, on paper. The Morgan Library & Museum.