Los Angeles

“Collectors Drawings 1860–1920”

Rex Evans Gallery

This first-rate collection of drawings and small watercolors by what are for the most part second-rate French and English artists from 1860 to 1920 is as refreshing as a long-overdue Spring rain. Some of the artists selected for inclusion by the genial Mr. Evans possess names of considerable stature, such as Rossetti, Burne-Jones, John, Sargent, and Legros while less celebrated are Guillaumin, Harpignies, Loiseau, Lhermitte, Sickert, Luce, Orpen, Shannon, Winterhalter, and others.

A review of this discerningly selected display encourages second thoughts about some of the artists represented and fosters consideration as to what touch of luck or circumstance might have been at work to have cast them into the limbo between genius and insignificance. Perhaps partial evidence to support the placement of these artists in an also-ran category may be found in associations which come to mind upon viewing their work. A most practical tool for critical estimation is immediate comparison with accepted masters. For example, in the exhibition at hand, it was a surprise to discover two pencil drawings by Burne-Jones which could be so closely related to the passive Tahitian madonnas of Gauguin. Or to find Lhermitte’s Le Vin with all the early ineptitudes of a Van Gogh peasant drawing. Or expose Winterhalter’s Lady of Austrian Court next to a Lautrec La Goulue not only because of the emblematic coiffure, but also the trenchant characterization and handling of the medium. Though these associations may be unwelcome, and quite subjective, they are there all the same and may formulate an inherently shaky basis upon which one might maintain that these artists merit their anonymity simply because they cannot or could not identify as themselves.

In addition to the above, John’s Standing Nude, the brilliantly colored Sargent Borghese Gardens, the Head of Alice Wilding by Rossetti, as well as several others earn close attention. A laudable presentation.

Curt Opliger