Antoine Louis Barye
Central to the process of artistic creation—for gathering information, sharpening visual acuity, generating ideas, and preparing for larger, more complex works—drawings are considered the most intimate and personal of all art forms. A uniquely Western phenomenon, they are a revealing expression of an artist's temperament, style, and working methods.
The sketchbooks below were acquired by George A. Lucas (1824-1909), a Baltimore collector and art agent who arrived in Paris in 1857. Lucas was keenly interested in the artistic process -- he collected over 40 palettes used by the painters of his day and demonstrated a particular regard for spontaneous sketches.
"There are many who pride themselves on their collections of drawings," Frédéric Goupil-Fesquet noted in 1886. "But few know how to organize them with taste. In almost every parlor is found an album—it is a mania—but where is there a picture in them all that would be worth a second glance?"
Such criticism could hardly be leveled at the devotional images in these two albums, assembled by the discerning eye of William T. Walters. It is assumed that he placed them into albums as a contemplative memorial to his wife Ellen, who died of pneumonia during a trip to London in 1862. Steeped in the tradition of 17th-century Dutch genre scenes, they are also part of a larger collecting trend—the market for religious imagery that exploited the intimate nature of drawing as a vehicle for private devotion.
Such drawings also attested to the wealth and refinement of their illustrious owners. Walters spent many years in Paris and was a client of George A. Lucas, with whom he shared a systematic and integrated approach to collecting. He befriended artists and assembled their work in albums that revealed his connoisseurship and refined yet conservative taste.
Click on a cover to explore a sketchbook or album: