ExhibitionsTop Drawer: Select Drawings from the High’s Collection
Past Exhibition

Top Drawer: Select Drawings from the High’s Collection

June 28, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Top Drawer celebrated the versatility and time honored tradition of the act of mark-making through some of the best drawings in the High’s permanent collection.

Mother and Child, 1909-1914

Mary Cassatt
American, 1844-1926
Mother and Child, 1909-1914
Pastel on paper
Purchase with funds from the Forward Arts Foundation and the Robert D. Fowler Family, 2007.119Mary Cassatt is considered one of the greatest interpreters of the mother and child theme. This exemplary work probes the intimacies of familial relationships. Though she looked to Old Masters for inspiration, Cassatt was also an innovator. She was among the first group of artists to use pastel as a finished medium, rather than as a preliminary study for an oil painting.

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Head of a Woman, ca. 1906

Elie Nadelman
American, 1882-1946
Head of a Woman, ca. 1906
Pen and sepia ink
Purchase with funds from Sarah Kenan Kennedy and anonymous gift, 2012.623The American art critic and collector Leo Stein acquired a number of drawings from Elie Nadelman’s first solo exhibition in 1909. This drawing is one of only a few that can be traced to Stein’s purchase. It relates closely to Nadelman’s sculptures of heads in marble and bronze, which Stein considered crucial to the development of abstraction.

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Foreshore-Two Lights, 1927

Edward Hopper
American, 1882-1967
Foreshore-Two Lights, 1927
Watercolor on paper
Purchase with Henry B. Scott Fund, 59.39Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine Nivison spent the summer of 1927 at Cape Elizabeth, Maine. There, Hopper experimented with watercolor, the medium that had launched his solo career three years before. He was particularly drawn to the stretch of beach called Two Lights, due to the two lighthouses nearby. Hopper used a limited palette and dramatic light in this solemn scene of Cape Elizabeth’s rugged shoreline.

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Landscape with Rocks, 1892

Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917
Landscape with Rocks, 1892
Pastel over monotype in oil colors on wove paper
Purchase with High Museum of Art Enhancement Fund, 2000.200This work by Edgar Degas is a combination of printing and drawing. Degas first painted broad swaths of color onto a printing plate, which he transferred onto a piece of paper by running both through a printing press. He then went over the printed color with almost pointalist touches of pink, orange, green, and blue pastel, paying attention to juxtapose oranges and greens and pinks and blues in order to heighten their chromatic intensity.

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Peasant from Interlaken, 1885

Adolph Menzel
German, 1815-1905
Peasant from Interlaken, 1885
Graphite on wove paper
Purchase with funds from The Buisson Foundation, 2000.167Nineteenth century German realist Adolph Menzel was a compulsive draughtsman, and seemingly no detail of his everyday surrounding escaped his observant eye. He drew Peasant from Interlaken during a sojourn to Interlaken Switzerland in the summer of 1885. Menzel often chose his models from ordinary people who gathered in a line outside his studio. In Peasant from Interlaken, Menzel brilliantly captured the skeptical attitude of his rustic sitter.

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Study for “Mater Dolorosa”, ca. 1770s

George Romney
British, 1734-1802
Study for “Mater Dolorosa”, ca. 1770s
Pen and ink with charcoal on laid paper
Gift of Hildegard and Clyde Ryals, 2004.15The subject of this evocative pen-and-ink drawing may be the lamentation of Mary over the body of Christ. George Romney, one of the most celebrated English portraitists of the eighteenth century, made this relatively large work. He created a sense of grief both through the imploring gesture of the body as well as the anguished expression of Mary’s face.

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Untitled, 2010

Jasper Johns
American, born 1930
Untitled, 2010
Graphite on paper
© Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NYPurchase with funds from Anne Cox Chambers, Sarah Kenan Kennedy, Dr. Lurton Massee Jr. Endowment for Contemporary Art, Blonder Family Acquisition Endowment Fund, Robert O. Breitling, Jr. Acquisition Endowment Fund, Gudmund Vigtel Memorial Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, Roya and Bahman Irvani, Dr. Diane Wisebram, Helen C. Griffith, Sara and Paul Steinfeld, Barbara and Bertram Levy, Joel S. Knox and Joan Marmo, and through prior acquisitions, 2014.75This recent drawing by Jasper Johns revisits a series of images – including the twin vases at the bottom of the sheet – that first appeared in a cycle of his paintings titled The Seasons in the mid 1980s. The recurrence of imagery throughout Johns’s career suggests the accumulation of meaning and memory in the span of the artist’s own life.

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Peony, 1979

Ellsworth Kelly
American, born 1923
Peony, 1979
Graphite on paper
Purchase with funds from Susan and Carl Cofer, Sarah Kenan Kennedy, Judith and Mark Taylor, and Victoria and Howard Palefsky, 2014.15
© Ellsworth KellyPeony is a precisely observed contour drawing of a single stem of a flower drawn by Ellsworth Kelly. Leaves cascading down the stem recall his more reductive shaped paintings and sculptures. Kelly has described his plant drawings as portraits: “It’s more a portrait of a plant. I do the contours and I make space by overlapping. I don’t want to put shading in because they’re about drawing, not about shading.”

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Bat Parts, 1994

Al Taylor
American, 1948-1999
Bat Parts, 1994
Pencil on paper
Purchase with funds from the Friends of Contemporary Art, 2013.509Al Taylor based this drawing on the sculpture Bat Parts II, which features a dissected aluminum baseball bat suspended in mid-air. Taylor saw no distinction between his drawings and his ingeniously assembled constructions. In this drawing, the bat parts appear to be dangling from wires, and suggest an Eadweard Muybridge-like motion study of a swinging bat.

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Untitled, ca. 1939–1942

Bill Traylor
American, 1854–1949
Untitled, ca. 1939–1942
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard
Purchase with funds from Mrs. Lindsey Hopkins, Jr., Edith G. and Philip A. Rhodes, and the Members Guild, 1982.93Bill Traylor did not begin drawing until he was in his eighties, after a long life during which he had been a slave, field hand, and factory worker. While living on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, he made compositions on cardboard that recorded visions of things he had seen or remembered. The ambiguous activities in Traylor’s compositions have been interpreted in dramatically different ways, and he said little to clarify them. Traylor drew inspiration from both the irregular shapes of the cast-off cardboard pieces he drew on and the smudges deposited on them.

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Modern Art, 1963

Minnie Evans
American, 1892-1987
Modern Art, 1963
Oil, ink, and crayon on paper board
Purchase with funds from Dan and Merrie Boone and the General Acquisitions Fund, 2007.90“I never plan a drawing, they just happen,” Minnie Evans once said. The confident drawing, adept design, and fresh colors in this work show Evans’s visionary powers at their most developed. The dreamlike imagery in Evans’s work may depict God’s throne as described in the biblical Book of Revelation.

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Untitled (La Inmaculada), 1950s

Martin Ramirez
American, born Mexico, 1895-1963
Untitled (La Inmaculada), 1950s
Crayon, pencil, watercolor, and collaged papers
Purchase with T. Marshall Hahn Folk Art Acquisition Fund for the T. Marshall Hahn Collection, 1999.93Mexican-born Martin Ramirez made art while institutionalized, using any materials he could find. A series of images, including trains, horseback riders, and the Madonna, recur frequently throughout his work. Here, Ramirez depicts the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, whom the Book of Revelation describes as “the woman clothed with the sun,” crowned with stars and standing on the moon.

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Top Drawer was a selection of drawings from four of the High Museum’s curatorial departments. Separated by centuries and continents, these diverse drawings were brought together by the unique insights each work brings into its creation.
The term “drawing” encompasses a varied set of techniques: objects in pencil, ink, pastel, watercolor, and combinations thereof fall into this category. Drawings also serve a variety of purposes: they act as finished works of art, as preparations for other artworks, or as sketches that translate the artist’s thoughts onto paper.

This range of practices is united by a set of common characteristics. In contrast to many paintings, drawings reveal the nature of their own making. Each mark exists as a record of the artist’s gesture, and in looking, the viewer can trace the movement of the artist’s hand or body. Because of this, drawing has long been considered the most intimate of media. It has a sense of immediacy that other media lack, acting at times as a window into the artist’s mind.
Top Drawer celebrated the versatility and time honored tradition of this act of mark-making through some of the best drawings in the High’s permanent collection.