Los Angeles

“Painted Papers: Watercolors from Dürer to our Times”

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Timed to open simultaneously with the inauguration of the new Sterling Morton Wing, “Painted Papers” is an almost heroic attempt to survey the history of watercolor painting in the Western world over practically the past half millennium. Included in this vast retrospection are well over 150 works assembled from the museum’s own holdings as well as distinguished public and private collections throughout the United States. General Curator William Hesthal is responsible for the enormous task of organizing the exhibition, and for writing an excellent introduction to the handsomely illustrated catalog. An impressive number of watercolors from the Santa Barbara Museum’s collections include prominent examples by William Blake, Arthur B. Davies, Lyonel Feininger, Morris Graves, George Grosz, John Marin, Joan Miró, Diego Rivera, Auguste Rodin, and John Singer Sargent. In addition, conspicuously important works such as Dürer’s design for a mural decoration from the Pierpont Morgan Library, Paul Cézanne’s Three Skulls and Study of Trees by Auguste Renoir from the Chicago Art Institute, John Constable’s Flatford Mill loaned by the Fogg Art Museum, Picasso’s Boy Leading Horse from the Baltimore Museum and Eugene Delacroix’s Race Horse loaned by Knoedler’s, fill key gaps which might otherwise have made the chronology of the exhibition sketchy. Though Cézanne’s Skulls may well be the most important work shown insofar as it embodies and amalgamates so completely the inherent properties of what makes a great work of art, the signal eloquence of the Younger Brueghl, Ingres, Renoir, Picasso, Signac, Dufy, Max Weber, Matisse, Prendergast, Klee, Rouault, Stuart Davis, Beckmann, Gauguin, and certain lesser known artists shown here, provides an inexhaustible round of elegant surprises, mystical visions, and a significant chunk of the rich heritage the watercolor medium has been responsible for inspiring.

Arthur Secunda