Why Draw? 500 Years of Drawings and Watercolors at Bowdoin College

Woman and Child, 1604– 1606, black and red chalk by Bernardino Poccetti

Woman and Child, 1604–
1606, black and red chalk
by Bernardino Poccetti

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) will present the first-ever survey of the Museum’s extensive collection of drawings, widely considered the oldest public collection of works on paper on the continent, illuminating the foundational and evolving role of drawing within Western artistic practice. Titled Why Draw? 500 Years of Drawings and Watercolors at Bowdoin College, the exhibition will be on view from May 3 through September 3, 2017.

Tango for Page Turning, 2013, Single channel HD video; 2 minutes, 48 seconds by William Kentridge

Tango for Page
Turning, 2013,
Single channel HD
video; 2 minutes,
48 seconds by
William Kentridge

The exhibition includes more than 150 works by American and European artists across cultures, genres, and time periods, such as Peter Paul Rubens, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Henri Matisse, Eva Hesse, and Roy Lichtenstein, among many others. Why Draw? will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that features original texts from renowned scholars and contemporary artists, all considering what compels artists to draw through close study of specific works in the exhibition. These insights, from contributors including David Driskell, Richard Tuttle, James Siena, and Yvonne Jacquette form the touchstones of both the exhibition and the catalogue, guiding viewers through an examination of the traditional functions of drawings in artistic education, studio practice, and the formal; and poetic reasons artists have been driven to drawing throughout history. The Museum will also host several public programs throughout the summer in conjunction with the exhibition, including artist talks, scholarly lectures, and artist-led workshops.

The End of the Hunt, 1892, watercolor over graphite, by Winslow Homer

The End of the Hunt,
1892, watercolor
over graphite, by
Winslow Homer

Curated by Joachim Homann, Curator at BCMA, the exhibition builds on the foundation of Bowdoin’s strong history of collecting works on paper, stemming back to the initial gift of 141 historic European drawings to the college by James Bowdoin III in 1811. Since then the drawings collection has evolved to include nearly 2,000 unique works on paper, encompassing acquisitions and gifts from alumni, artists, and patrons. Many recent additions to the collection will be on view for the first time. Spanning from a drawing from the workshop of Raphael, to the first-ever watercolor by Winslow Homer to enter a museum collection, to works produced in the past five years by Natalie Frank, William Kentridge, and Titus Kaphar, the exhibition offers a diverse selection of masterworks from artists across a wide range of history.

Untitled Drawing, 1943 graphite and colored crayon, by Arshile Gorky

Untitled Drawing,
1943
graphite and colored
crayon, by Arshile
Gorky

Fully accessible, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is open to the public free of charge from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday; 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. 

For more information visit the Bowdoin College Museum of Art website.

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