Drawing the past and present
The lights are dim, and some of the images require bend-in, squint-close viewing. Magnifying glasses hang on the walls here and there. We’re grateful to find them.
It all makes sense when you reflect that we’re looking at fragile drawings on paper from hundreds of years ago. Can chalk and graphite really live this long? If the conditions are right.
Now at the Cantor Arts Center, the Blanton Museum’s “Storied Past” show of French drawings may not be the most dynamic of exhibitions, but up-close viewing has its rewards. Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s delicate “Arms of a Girl Holding a Bird,” carefully drawn in red chalk on cream paper. Nicolas Lancret’s barely-there “Study of a Man” in black and white chalks. The subtlety of everyday life in a medium we’ve all tried our hands at.
Striking bright spots emerged where the artists used white chalk as highlights: on faces, figures, sparks of sky. In Theodore Rousseau’s 19th-century “A Marshy River Landscape” (pictured above), the glints of chalk in charcoal feel like hope on a dark day.