A Constellation of Drawings
Among the illuminations in Galaxy is a stellar array of drawings that date from the early sixteenth century to the first decade of the twenty-first. With a steady yet light touch of graphite, ink, or charcoal, artists have transformed once blank sheets of paper into pictures of blossoms bending, cupids playing, Christ praying, a female figure flying, and a Study for Queer Mysteries. These drawings—and a host of others, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Egon Schiele, Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Barry McGee, and Ajit Chauhan—are part of Galaxy’s greater constellation of artworks in varied media, selected from the museum’s collection by BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder.
Drawings were first given fine art status during the Italian Renaissance, when the father of art history, Giorgio Vasari, collected drawings by masters of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries and wrote about them in his seminal book Lives of the Artists. The Berkeley Art Museum (once University Art Museum) began collecting drawings in 1966 as plans were laid for the building of a new museum. The newly acquired works were showcased in a 1968 exhibition on campus, Master Drawings from California Collections. In the catalog for the show, curator Juergen Schulz wrote, “We may hope . . . that an exhibition such as this represents no more than a foretaste of what future generations of Californians will be able to see in the drawing cabinets of their State.”
Four decades later, as plans are again underway for the construction of a new museum, Galaxy offers an opportunity for Californians to see how their collection has grown through the connoisseurship of the museum’s directors and curators and the generosity of its donors, who, in the spirit of Vasari, continue to cultivate greats of the past, present, and future in art.