Getty Museum presents 'Grand Design: 17th Century French Drawings'

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Getty Museum presents 'Grand Design: 17th Century French Drawings'
Studies for a Ceiling Decoration with the Apotheosis of Psyche (detail), about 1680, Charles de la Fosse. Pen and black ink and brush and watercolor over red chalk on paper, 10 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. Getty Museum, 2001.47.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Presenting the Getty Museum’s collection of 17th century French drawings in its entirety for the first time, Grand Design: 17th Century French Drawings, open through May 1, 2022, addresses the emergence of a distinctly French school of art and explores the role that drawing played in the process.

“Today we recognize drawings by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain as landmark achievements of 17th-century European art,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “But in fact, drawing lay at the heart of all artmaking in 17th-century France, from the decoration of palaces and churches to the illustration of books. Drawing was where it began.”

French art came into its own during the 17th century, often called the Grand Siècle, or Great Age, of France. This period witnessed a series of violent political upheavals at home, the first stages of colonial expansion overseas, and the rise of authoritarian absolute monarchy. This turbulent century fostered artistic activity on a scale previously unimagined. Expatriate French artists achieved fame in Rome; a Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture was founded in Paris; and vast building projects—most notably, the Palace of Versailles—employed whole generations of artists.

This exhibition includes drawings made by Jacques Callot, Simon Vouet, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Charles Le Brun, Hyacinthe Rigaud and many others. These artists made drawings for many different purposes: designs for ceiling paintings, altarpieces, sculptures, and prints; landscape sketches made outdoors; and nude studies drawn in the studio.

“Drawing helped seventeenth-century French artists make sense of the world around them, think through compositional ideas, and prepare finished works,” explains Emily Beeny, curator of the exhibition. “Each of these sheets invites us into its author’s creative process, whether observing nature, capturing a portrait likeness, designing a print, or preparing a painting.”

Grand Design: 17th Century French Drawings will be on view now through May 1, 2022, at the Getty Center. It is curated by Emily Beeny, curator in charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and former associate curator of drawings at the Getty Museum. This exhibition is presented concurrently with another exhibition focused on seventeenth-century French art: Poussin and the Dance.

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