Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection

February 19, 2021 through June 6, 2021

This exhibition celebrates the remarkable collection of drawings assembled by the collecting couple Richard Gray, one of America’s foremost art dealers, and art historian Mary L. Gray.

Amassed over the course of nearly 50 years, the collection encompasses works produced in Europe and the United States between the fifteenth and the twenty-first centuries, tracing the long and distinguished history of one medium: drawing.

The human figure, expressed directly and intimately, is the collection’s primary focus, demonstrating the capacity of drawing to represent and interpret the body. While there are numerous works by established artists—Rubens, Boucher, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, Picasso, and Hockney, among others—the Grays were more interested in skill than celebrity, and they also collected many exceptional drawings by lesser-known draftsmen.

Often keenly aware of their place in art history, the artists in the collection engaged in lively conversations on paper with contemporaries and forebears. Other visual connections are apparent only in hindsight, a point of view afforded by the chronological breadth of the Gray Collection. Juxtaposing drawings from distinct periods and places, this exhibition illuminates the affinities and tensions that have emerged throughout the medium’s evolution.

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Art Insitute of Chicago logoConversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago in cooperation with the Morgan Library & Museum.

The exhibition is made possible by an anonymous donor, with additional support from the Charles E. Pierce, Jr. Fund for Exhibitions, and assistance from Mr. and Mrs. Clement C. Moore II and Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt.

Giovanni Battista Naldini (1535-1591), Study of a Seated Youth, ca. 1575. Black chalk, with touches of white chalk, squared in red chalk. Richard and Mary L. Gray, promised gift to the Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Art Institute of Chicago Imaging Department.