Training the Eye: 19th-Century Drawings

(Baltimore, MD)–During the 19th century, mastery in drawing was seen as the basis for all artistic endeavors, and an aspiring artist’s training started with years spent drawing from simple shapes, plaster casts of ancient sculpture and the nude model. Eventually the prints, drawings and watercolors produced during this period came to be considered major artworks in their own right. Training the Eye: 19th-Century Drawings, on view beginning May 14 through August 13, 2017, brings together some of the Walters’ most exceptional works on paper. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Training the Eye is installed in the museum’s Manuscript Gallery, and explores the artistry and technical skill of 19th-century artists through the lens of 17 portraits, still-life studies, and figure drawings, including two spectacular watercolors by Léon Bonvin. The Walters holds the largest collection of Bonvin in the world.

Wall texts for the exhibition were produced in collaboration with faculty at Baltimore’s Schuler School of Fine Arts, located in Station North. The Schuler School continues a tradition of artistic training practiced in 19th-century academies.

“Visitors won’t just be hearing from the curator—they’ll have the opportunity to learn about 19th-century drawings and watercolors at the Walters through the lens of conservation and contemporary artistic practice,” said Jo Briggs, associate curator of 18th- and 19th-century art.

“Each subtle variation in brush stroke, paper composition and pigment is revealed and Training the Eye brings these delightful works on paper to life for a modern audience.”

Training the Eye: 19th Century Drawings is generously supported by the Women’s Committee of the Walters Art Museum and contributors to the annual fund.

Works on Paper at the Walters Art Museum

Beginning around 1850, William T. Walters (1819–94) avidly collected drawings and watercolors, which during 19th century came to be considered major artworks, competing with oil paintings in value, status and marketability. William ultimately filled 13 leather-bound albums with works by artists such as Jean-François Millet, Léon Bonvin, Théodore Rousseau and Jean-Léon Gérôme.

William’s son, Henry (1848–1931), inherited his father’s art collection and greatly expanded it. He made important additions to the drawings collection, including works by Mary Cassatt and John La Farge. When Henry opened his museum to the public, he dedicated the second floor   Manuscripts Gallery to works on paper.

The Schuler School of Fine Arts and the Walters’ Connection

In the first decade of the 20th century, at the same time that Henry Walters was constructing his museum building on North Charles Street, the sculptor Hans Schuler (1874–1951) was building a studio 10 blocks north in what is now the Station North Arts District. In 1959, the sculptor’s son founded a school there, with the mission of continuing to teach fine art following the traditions of the Old Masters. Today the school offers a four-year-long program, stressing drawing as the foundation for studying painting and sculpture, as was the practice in the 19th century.

Schuler was among the first class of sculptors educated at the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The school was founded out of the estate of Maryland-born sculptor William Henry Rinehart, a close friend of William T. Walters. After graduating in 1898, Schuler received a scholarship to travel to Paris to continue his training. Henry Walters advocated for Schuler, allowing him to remain in Paris for another four years. Henry became a significant patron, commissioning a sculpture of the mythical Greek heroine Ariadne, for which Schuler was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1901. The year before he died, Henry commissioned a portrait bust from Schuler. Both these works can now be found at the Walters. Schuler’s sculptures can be seen throughout Baltimore, many in the city’s cemeteries.

About the Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum, located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre Streets, is free and open to the public. At the time of his death in 1931, museum founder Henry Walters left his entire collection of art to the city of Baltimore. Its collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art, and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. The Museum Store offers distinctive gifts, jewelry and books based on the museum’s collections.

Free admission to the Walters Art Museum is made possible by the combined generosity of individual members, friends and benefactors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council.

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