Art Review

Art Beat

You've got about ten days left to catch Master Drawings: 700 Years of Inspiration at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The show, which includes approximately 150 pieces, highlights a selection of drawings from the collection of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

The exhibit has been intelligently installed in the center's north and east galleries. Arranged chronologically, it begins with an illustrated leaf from the early 1300s and concludes with a penciled illustration from the 1970s, thereby allowing the relentless march of art history to reveal itself through sequential stylistic developments. (Sorting art by date is such an obviously rational way to look at historic material; isn't it a wonder that it's so rarely done?) The items on display fall into three broad categories: quick sketches, detailed studies and finished presentation drawings.

The antique sketches and studies were never meant to be presented as works of art, but were instead used as tools, like pigments. Their function was to help the artist work out the composition. The distinction has little relevance today, however, and many -- like Winslow Homer's "Girl With Shell at Ear" (above), from 1880 -- are also among the best pieces in the show.

Master Drawings provides a rare opportunity for locals to see the work of some of the biggest names in art history in a rarely exhibited medium. Believe it or not, it's worth that arduous trip to Colorado Springs.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia