Exhibition at the British Museum: French Portrait Drawings

I was alerted to this show via a delightful blog called The Grumpy Art Historian, which I highly recommend.  Excerpted below is part of his blog post, with links to what sounds like a wonderful exhibition that is on view at the British Museum through January 29, 2017.  Although apparently there is no published catalogue, there is this short piece that describes works in the exhibition: French Portrait Drawings. If you have a chance to see the show, do!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.   ~ Betty

French Portrait Drawings: From Clouet to Courbet 


Exhibition on view through January 29, 2017, Free admission

Attributed to Pierre Biard II (1592–1661) An old man in working dress, early 17th century Black and red chalk, with blue-grey wash This intense, evocative portrait is something of a mystery. The Italian inscription at lower left refers to ‘Pietro Biardo dy Parigi’, but it is not clear whether this identifies the artist or the sitter. Pierre Biard was a sculptor and engraver, the son of an architect and sculptor also called Pierre Biard. No certain drawings by the younger Biard are known, yet this drawing is the work of an accomplished draughtsman. The style suggests that it dates to the first quarter of the 17th century, which is when Biard is most likely to have visited Italy. If this is indeed by Biard himself, then it is an important and unique example of his skills.

"This exquisite exhibition shows the evolution of portrait drawing in France, but it's also about the development of the British Museum's collection.  It shows some smart recent acquisitions, and some obscure drawings that deserve more attention.  The British Museum's collection of drawings is arguably the greatest in the world, but its backbone is a handful of old private collections whose idiosyncrasies persist.  The Italian old masters are broad and deep, but other schools are more patchy.  They have a wonderful group of Watteau drawings, but other French artists were collected inconsistently.  A database search reveals just three drawings by the prolific draughtsman Jacques-Louis David, and their first Vouet was acquired just last year.  Many fine drawings in this show have been acquired quite recently, including a superb Isabey (2007) and Labadye (2001).  All the recent acquisitions were excellent choices.  I was also surprised by how many superb drawings I'd never seen or heard of, like the wonderful image illustrated above, attributed to Pierre Biard II on the basis of the inscription.  More information on the attribution can be found on the BM's catalogue entry."