David Juarez

Karen White, a docent at the Blanton Museum, discusses an art piece featured in an exhibition of rare French drawings Thursday afternoon. Tours of the exhibition include detailed information on each piece provided by a former curator of the museum.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Former Blanton Museum of Art curator Cheryl Snay spent four years reseraching and probing into the history and tiniest details of rare French drawings.

Museum spokeswoman Kathleen Stimpert said because of her work, the Blanton will showcase four rooms filled with drawings from the past four centuries that have much more context than meets the eye.

“She was able to prove or disprove who made the drawings,” she said. “Some of the drawings we thought were by one artist were not. She also worked with the Harry Ransom Center to X-ray the drawings. She found some sketches on the paper that are invisible to the human eye.”

These unique finds attracted American studies senior David Juarez to the exhibit Thursday, he said.

“I like how it brings out details to students like me who would never get the chance to see this unless we went to France or Italy,” Juarez said.

He said he also appreciated the historical context of the exhibit and a small display that shows different tools artists used when making the drawings.

“I like how they represent the materials on hand and see what they had available to create this piece,” Juarez said.

Blanton docent Karen White explained the political climate artists faced during the time that the artwork was produced.

“This is a time when the French Academy had influence over most of the artists in Europe,” White said in a room full of 17th century artwork. “It is important to remember that in the French Academy you couldn’t paint unless you could draw.”

To learn to draw, artists at the time studied in multiple fields and had to rise through the ranks of artistry.

“They would have studied anatomy because drawing the human body is the ultimate goal,” White said. “As you became better you can become a sculptor and later, a painter. Later you could become an architect or a printer.”

In these early ages, the subject matter of paintings was also very limited, White said.

“In this era of the French Academy drawings were limited to religious or mythological topics,” White said. “There were no landscapes, and portraits were limited to high ranking political figures.”

As time went on however, things changed, she said.

“Notice who we are looking at now,” she said about one display of 19th century work. “These are working class people. It’s representative of democratic ideals infiltrating the arts.”

This historical context allowed Buda resident Kim Howell to appreciate the work more, she said.

“I found interesting the historical exhibit and the historical perspective that the docent talked about,” Howell said. “It gives you the opportunity to discover new things.”

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Blanton showcases rare French drawings in exhibition