French Art from the Horvitz Collection
A captivating new exhibition featuring French art will be on view at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens from May 25 through July 29, 2018. Under the title Storytelling: French Art from the Horvitz Collection, this presentation combines two exhibitions: Imaging Text: Drawings for French Book Illustration and Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Paintings, from one of the world’s finest private collections of French art. Created between the 16th and 19th centuries, and ranging from mythological and biblical studies to more playful imagery, the eighty works included in the exhibition vary in terms of style, genre, and period. Captured in crisp and swift pen strokes, finely modulated chalk, or strong colors, these exquisite compositions were produced by some of the most prominent artists of their time, such as Charles Le Brun (1619 – 1690), Charles-Nicolas Cochin, the younger (1715 – 1790), and Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806).
The breadth and quality of the Horvitz collection has been the focus of many national and international exhibitions, as well as scholarly publications. The French component of the Horvitz collection contains about sixteen hundred drawings, one hundred and fifty paintings, and thirty five sculptures. In 2017, to accompany the presentation of From Watteau to David at the Petit Palais in Paris (yes, that same museum whose collection of jewelry was on display last fall at the Cummer Museum), an important catalogue was published: Traditions & Transitions: Eighteenth-Century French Art from the Horvitz Collection, edited by Alvin L. Clark Jr. One of the sections of the book is a thorough interview with collector Jeffrey E. Horvitz and Alvin L. Clark Jr. (Larry), the curator of the Horvitz collection, among others.
What follows are excerpts of the interview, which shed some light on the importance of drawings, building a great collection, and how that collection is shared with a wider audience.
Christophe Leribault, Director of the Petit Palais: This exhibition features drawings, paintings, and sculptures, but drawings are the richest part of the Horvitz Collection. I’d like to begin our conversation today by asking all of you why the general public often finds drawing, as an art form, harder to appreciate than painting?
Alvin L. Clark: I think the public may not understand that drawing is the basis for all of the arts, primarily because nobody tells them. Moreover, for understandable reasons, museums store most of their drawings in boxes away from general view; you have to actually look for them, or there has to be an exhibition. At the same time, even those institutions with enormous collections of graphic arts dedicate much more wall and floor space to paintings and sculpture. Certainly, light exposure plays an important role in the levels of accessibility for works on paper, but this can be easily resolved by the frequent rotation of works. Recently, after its renovation, the Fogg made an effort to blend the graphic arts into its presentation of Western art by dedicating a case or a wall in each gallery. Although I must admit that I originally had some doubts, it has been enormously successful. People now expect to see drawings and prints in each space. So, perhaps it is a question of accessibility … that is, actually seeing the graphic arts side by side with paintings and sculptures on a regular basis.
CL: Jeffrey, what time in your life did you begin to collect drawings?
Jeffrey E. Horvitz: Growing up, my family had paintings of some decorative quality in the house, but nothing by a well-known artist. Drawings, specifically, caught my attention when I was a young dealer in modern art. I was about twenty-three years old. At that point, I was buying drawings for my gallery, but not collecting them because, theoretically, they were for sale. I could not afford to keep everything I liked. Before that, the idea that you could buy works of art of the type and quality you would see in a museum never crossed my mind. When I closed my gallery and turned to the family business, I still wished to live with art, but I was looking for something to collect that was different than the types of things I had sold. It had to be similar enough in aesthetic – Western art, as opposed to Asian or African – and inexpensive enough for me to feel comfortable committing to a new field I didn’t really know much about. Although I like many different kinds of art, I eventually decided on Old Master drawings around 1983.