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Visions of Antiquity: Neoclassical Figure Drawings

October 30, 1993–January 2, 1994

Visions of Antiquity: Neoclassical Figure Drawings presents 125 old master drawings from public and private collections in Europe, the United States, and Canada, many of which have never before been exhibited in this country. In the mid-18th century, the newly excavated sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum stimulated artists to turn away from the prevailing Baroque and Rococo traditions and look instead to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations for inspiration. The "neoclassical" style spread throughout Europe and influenced painting, sculpture, architecture, stage design, and prints and drawings. This exhibition explores the impact of Greco-Roman antiquity on three generations of European artists, from Anton Raphael Mengs in the mid-18th century to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in the early 19th century. The show specifically focuses on the most essential evidence of an artist's knowledge of the classical past, the rendering of the human figure. The 125 drawings in the exhibition range from preliminary sketches to highly finished presentation studies for paintings, sculpture, and prints. The distinguished international group of artists represented include Pompeo Batoni, Giuseppe Cades, William Blake, Jacques-Louis David, John Flaxman, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, among others. Also on view for the first time in the U.S. is a selection of drawings by one of Denmark's leading neoclassical artists, the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, and a group of images by Scandinavia's major neoclassical painters. Among the highlights of the exhibition are Belisarius, c. 1797, a spectacular early drawing by Ingres portraying the blind Roman general falsely accused of conspiracy; Eckersberg's The Dream of Halcyone, 1813, the subject of which is drawn from Ovid's Metamorphoses; Prud'hon's Study of a Male Nude, whose posture is inspired by Greco-Roman sculpture; and David's Paris and Helen, 1786, an advanced compositional study for the artist's painting of the same name, now in the Louvre in Paris. Visions of Antiquity: Neoclassical Figure Drawing is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by leading American and European scholars in the field.

Organizers and Support

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and is made possible by a grant from theNational Endowment for the Arts. In Philadelphia, it is also supported by a generous grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Main Building


Ann Percy

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