Sketching among the Ruins

October 25, 2022 through November 12, 2023
Landscape of a circular wall surrounding arched ruins with mountains and blue sky in background and lone figure in foreground.

Sketching among the Ruins By the mid-eighteenth century, the practice of sketching outdoors with oil paint had become popular among landscape artists. Furthermore, a study trip through Europe, often centered on a stay in Italy, had evolved as a customary part of artists’ training. Italy’s cities and countryside, filled with remnants of ancient monuments, offered artists stimulating subject matter, and the portability of oil sketching facilitated the firsthand study of ruins and their surroundings. While some painters carefully recorded these structures’ textures and colors, as well as how light fell upon them, others invented scenes by reimagining remains of the past or by envisioning the future deterioration of the present. Whether real or fictional, ruins and their surrounding landscape offered poignant juxtapositions—at once testimonies to the majesty of human achievement and to the inevitable triumph of time over our endeavors.

Sketching among the Ruins highlights oil sketches given jointly to the Morgan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Eugene V. Thaw, a trustee of both institutions.

Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont
French, 1790–1870
The Roman Theater, Taormina, 1825
Oil on paper, mounted on board
Thaw Collection, jointly owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Eugene V. Thaw, 2009