Francisco de Goya (1746–1828), Leave it all to Providence (Dejalo todo a la probidencia), 1816-20, black ink and gray wash, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 1999.22.
The Thaw Collection is considered among the foremost private collections of drawings assembled over the last half century. It was first promised to the Morgan in 1975 by Eugene V. Thaw, now a Life Trustee, and the museum received the full collection of 424 works in early 2017. In honor of this extraordinary gift—one of the most important in the history of the museum—the Morgan presents Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection.
On view from September 29 through January 7, 2018, the exhibition includes more than 150 masterworks from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. A partial list of artists represented includes Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Watteau, Piranesi, Fragonard, Goya, Turner, Ingres, Daumier, Degas, Cézanne, Redon, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Pollock.
“It is difficult to summarize in a few words what the acquisition of the Thaw Collection means to the Morgan but ‘transformative’ may be the best single way to describe it,” said Director Colin B. Bailey. “The great range of artists, schools, and regions represented is remarkable. Moreover, the quality of the individual drawings reflects Gene Thaw’s exceptional critical eye—and his keen intellectual curiosity. Over the years Gene’s passionate commitment to the Morgan has never wavered and we can think of no better way to honor him and his late wife, Clare, than to present this exhibition of some of the greatest works from their collection.”
The exhibition is organized in a series of sections that illustrate key moments in the history of draftsmanship while also highlighting the work of artists whom the Thaws collected in depth, among them Rembrandt, Goya, Redon, and Degas.
One of the leading art dealers of his day, Eugene Thaw, who was born in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, initially was drawn to contemporary artists before focusing on major masters of the first decades of the twentieth century. He soon expanded his range to include earlier work, with a particular penchant for nineteenth-century French artists. Not long after his marriage to Clare Eddy in 1954, he was encouraged by his wife to keep some of the drawings for which he was particularly enthusiastic, and their private collection began to take shape.
Thaw acquired these great objects from a variety of sources: from art dealers and their galleries, through fellow collectors, at bookshops, and, perhaps most spectacularly, at auction. A major early purchase, in 1980, was the rare sheet by the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna that set a record price for a drawing by the artist. Later, Thaw had the opportunity to acquire one of the last significant landscape drawings by Rembrandt still in private hands.
Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), Three Standing Saints, ca. 1450-1455, pen and brown ink on paper toned with red chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 1985.100.
The Thaws first became involved with the Morgan in the 1960s. The relationship deepened during the tenures of Morgan directors Charles Ryskamp (1969–86) and Charles E. Pierce, Jr. (1987–2007). In 1975, on the occasion of the collection’s first exhibition at the Morgan, the Thaws announced that they were making a promised gift of their drawings.
Over the years Thaw has contributed other important works to the Morgan including a superb group of landscape oil sketches which the museum shares with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also gave a collection of early Medieval ornamental objects currently installed in the McKim building’s North Room, and a cache of nineteen illustrated letters by Vincent van Gogh to his protégé, Émile Bernard.
Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Letter to Paul Gauguin, 17 October 1888, with a sketch of Bedroom at Arles, pen and brown ink on graph paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6447. Given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007.
In addition to his gifts of art, Eugene underwrote the museum’s state-of-the-art Thaw Conservation Center, which opened in 2002. He also endowed two galleries in his wife’s name—most recently, the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery in 2006. His donation in 2011 helped establish the Morgan’s Drawing Institute, a center for the study of works on paper. In 2013, an additional gift endowed the position of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints.
In discussing his passion for collecting and his gift to the Morgan, Thaw said, “All true collectors want a group of works that reflects their own taste and judgement of what’s best. But critical to this drive or need to accumulate objects that excite the eye and mind, and to put them in order, is also the art of sharing them. I can think of no better place to do that than the Morgan Library & Museum.”
Vittore Carpaccio (1455? - 1525?), Virgin and Child with Saints in a Landscape, ca. 1500–1510, pen and brown ink and wash over red and black chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2006.46.
Albrecht Altdorfer (ca. 1480–1538), Two Lovers by a Fountain in a Landscape, 1509-10, pen and black ink and white opaque watercolor, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2006.41.
Jan Bruegel (1568 - 1625), A View of the Tiber in Rome with the Ponte Sisto and Saint Peter's in the Distance, ca. 1594, pen and brown ink and wash and blue watercolor over black chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.20.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), Four Musicians with Wind Instruments, ca. 1638, pen and brown and black ink and brown wash, and red and yellow chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2004.42.
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), The Bulwark De Rose and the Windmill De Smeerpot, Amsterdam, ca. 1649-52, pen and brown ink and wash, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2006.47.
Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), A Member of the Persian Embassy, 1715, red and black chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2000.54.
Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), Young Woman Wearing a Chemise, ca. 1718, black, red, and white chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2000.53.
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727–1804), Scene of Contemporary Life: The Picture Show, 1791, pen and brown and black ink and wash over black chalk, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.253.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), The Little Park, ca. 1765, paque watercolor over graphite, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 1997.85.
Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Moroccans Outside the Walls of Tangier, 19th century, watercolor and opaque white watercolor over graphite on wove paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.65.
J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), The Pass of St. Gotthard, near Faido, 1843, watercolor over graphite, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2006.52.
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834–1917), Seated Dancer, 1871-72, oil paint over graphite on pink paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.54.
Odilon Redon (1840–1916), The Fool (or Intuition), 1877, charcoal with black chalk and fixative on light brown paper, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2010.120.
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), The Bathers, ca. 1900, watercolor over graphite, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.29.
Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), Crouching Tahitian Woman Seen from the Back, ca. 1902, monotype in watercolor with opaque white watercolor, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.90.
Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Untitled [Drawing for P.G.], ca. 1943, pen and black ink and wash, green ink wash, red colored pencil, and orange watercolor pencil © 2017 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.