Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Head of a Woman, 1784, Pastel on faded blue paper, 12 x 9 7/8 inches, Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard, Photo: Joseph Coscia Jr.
The Eveillard Gift includes works on paper by Caillebotte, Degas, Delacroix, Fragonard, Goya, Lawrence, Millet, Sargent, Vigée Le Brun, and Watteau
October 13, 2022, through February 26, 2023
The major fall exhibition at Frick Madison (the temporary home of The Frick Collection during renovation of its historic buildings) presents the largest and most significant promised gift of drawings and pastels in the institution’s history. Assembled by Elizabeth “Betty” and Jean-Marie Eveillard, avid collectors of drawings and pastels, the exhibition includes European works ranging in date from the end of the fifteenth century to the twentieth century and representing artists working in France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. The twenty-six works include some of the couple’s finest acquisitions: eighteen drawings, five pastels, two prints, and one oil sketch. Along with preparatory figurative sketches and independent studies and portraits are two vivid landscape scenes. Artists represented come from the same schools that attracted Henry Clay Frick as a collector, many of whom are represented in the permanent collection: François Boucher, Edgar Degas, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Thomas Lawrence, and Jean-François Millet. The gift also introduces to the museum’s holdings works by artists not previously represented, including Gustave Caillebotte, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Jan Lievens, John Singer Sargent, and Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
The Eveillard Gift is organized by Xavier F. Salomon, the Frick’s Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Curator; Curator Aimee Ng; and Giulio Dalvit, Assistant Curator of Sculpture, and will be accompanied by a catalogue and public programs. Comments Salomon, “We are thrilled to share examples from the remarkable collection of two longtime supporters of the Frick, assembled just as our own holdings have been, according to criteria of beauty, quality, and condition. The Eveillards describe themselves as ‘emotional collectors,’ meaning that every work they have acquired spoke deeply to them. We hope this presentation of their transformative gift will engage our visitors as deeply.” Betty and Jean-Marie Eveillard have been involved with the Frick for many years, both having served as Trustees. Betty is currently the Board’s Chair.
The couple acquired their first important work in 1975, John Singer Sargent’s Virginie Amélie Avegno, Mme. Gautreau (Mme. X). To have begun purchasing drawings with this example is perhaps not surprising given that Betty’s introduction to the art world was established through trips to museums with her great uncle, the portrait painter Marvin Julian, who, as a young man, knew Sargent. This drawing is the most modern work in exhibition and will be a particularly satisfying addition to the Frick’s holdings: It is known from archival correspondence that Henry Clay Frick desired to acquire a work by Sargent but did not succeed. Dated to about 1884, Sargent’s Mme. Gautreau is one of some dozen studies produced for the famous painted portrait Madame X, a highlight of the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This large sheet shows the artist working out the figure’s pose, representing her lithe figure kneeling on a sofa and looking out a window. Sargent was captivated by Gautreau and strived in studies like this and in the final painting to capture her “unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness.”
Other later nineteenth-century drawings featured in the exhibition are by Degas and Caillebotte. While the institution owns a quintessential Degas canvas of dancers, the Eveillards’ early drawing of his cousin Adelchi Morbilli will be only the second work on paper by the artist in the Frick’s collection and is one of the highlights of the gift. It is perhaps the best of his series of drawings of this subject, who is portrayed wearing a three-piece suit and cravat, seated slightly askew on a chair, looking directly at the artist.
One of the most interesting figures in the circle of Impressionist artists and one not previously represented at the Frick is Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894), an extraordinary painter who came from a wealthy background and was also a patron and supporter of his artist friends. His works rarely appear on the market, most still in the possession of his descendants. Included in the show is the Eveillards’ extraordinary preparatory sheet of a figure found in the artist’s most celebrated and best-known painting, Paris Street; Rainy Weather of 1877 (The Art Institute, Chicago).
Eighteenth-century French art is one of the Frick’s strengths, with holdings by Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze, and Watteau. The exhibition presents works by these artists in chalk and pastel on paper, media in which none of them is currently represented in the museum’s holdings. Among these is the large study at left, by Greuze. Celebrated by his contemporaries for his ability to convey subtle emotions, Greuze made many head studies exploring various expressions, like the model’s fearful apprehension conveyed in this drawing. This red-chalk work is among the most accomplished of Greuze’s head studies and relates to a number of figures of young boys in the artist’s often moralizing genre paintings. The most renowned—and arguably the best—pastelist in eighteenth-century France was the eccentric Maurice Quentin de La Tour. The exhibition includes the artist’s portrait of Madame Rouillé, his finest pastel in a private United States collection.
Widely traveled and celebrated during her life, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a highly accomplished portraitist and writer. She was one of the few artists who worked before and after the Revolution in France, spending the difficult years of the Revolution in exile in various European countries. Her work is represented in the exhibition with Head of a Woman, a sketch signed and dated 1784 and likely made in preparation for a history painting that was never executed. (The Frick’s holdings contain few works by woman artists, and this important and welcome addition joins two recently acquired pastels by Rosalba Carriera.)
Painter Eugène Delacroix was among those artists who heralded French Romanticism. In 2010, former Frick Director Charles Ryskamp left to the Frick the artist’s Moroccan Interior, a delicate and personal drawing from one of the sketchbooks Delacroix made in 1832 during a visit to North Africa. This exhibition will include a later pastel by the artist depicting two North African figures in a landscape. Of the twenty known Delacroix pastels of such subjects, only a dozen can be located today; the Eveillard sheet is the only one in private hands.
British works are a strength of the museum’s holdings, particularly evident at Frick Madison, where paintings from this school are shown together on the museum’s fourth floor. Two sheets included in the special exhibition will prove particularly complementary to them. A drawing by Sir Thomas Lawrence—whose Frick portrait of Lady Peel is among the artist’s most beloved works—offers a profile view of Lawrence’s close friend John Angerstein, whose family he often depicted. (The painting collection of Angerstein’s father formed the nucleus of the National Gallery in London.) A recently rediscovered oil sketch by John Constable is associated with his Leaping Horse (Royal Academy of Arts, London), the last and most dramatic of his celebrated series of “six-footers.” This small sketch complements the Frick’s four works by Constable.
The Eveillards’ Tambourine Player will deepen the institution’s holdings by Goya, which already include five works by the artist (four paintings and one drawing, The Anglers). A prodigious draftsman, Goya filled small albums with drawings in a wide variety of subject matter. The Tambourine Player comes from Album F, a partially used notebook that also contained the aforementioned sheet in the Frick’s collection. Showing a single male figure singing and dancing, this depiction of a reveler exemplifies the artist’s fascination with everyday people as subjects.
Visitors will also encounter a drawing by Jan Lievens that adds significantly to the Frick’s holdings of seventeenth-century portraiture from northern Europe, which includes masterpieces by Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, and Frans Hals. Lievens was a contemporary of Rembrandt and worked closely with Van Dyck in England, developing a highly accomplished style of his own, especially in portrait drawings. The Frick’s only northern portrait on paper, this sheet of an unidentified man has been admired as one of the finest of Lievens’s portrait drawings and is among the last of this caliber known to be in private hands.
Other works in the exhibition and gift enrich the Frick’s celebrated collection of Italian holdings, with sheets ranging from a rare anonymous fifteenth-century Venetian drawing to Renaissance and Baroque examples by Federico Barocci, Guido Reni, and Salvator Rosa and eighteenth-century works by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. As a young collector, Henry Clay Frick was particularly interested in the Barbizon school, and a drawing by Jean-François Millet, one of the movement’s founding members, will also enter the collection through this generous gift. The landscape joins a genre scene painting by Millet already in the collection.
A catalogue will be published in the autumn of 2022 by The Frick Collection in association with Paul Holberton London. The hardcover volume of 176 pages ($45.00, member price $36.00) has approximately 120 color illustrations and contains an essay by Xavier F. Salomon, the Frick’s Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator. Comprehensive commentaries on the twenty-six featured works are contributed by Salomon, Curator Aimee Ng, and Assistant Curator of Sculpture Giulio Dalvit. The publication may be pre-ordered online through the Frick’s Museum Shop at frick.org/shop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 212.547.6849. It will also be available for purchase on-site this fall.
Major funding for the exhibition is provided by the Estate of Seymour R. Askin Jr. and by The Gilbert & Ildiko Butler Family Foundation, Inc. Additional support is generously provided by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Kathleen Feldstein, the David L. Klein, Jr. Foundation, Jane Richards, Mrs. A. Alfred Taubman, Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt, and Chips and Liz Moore.
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