The artist does not draw what he sees, but what he must make others see.
– Edgar Degas
This exhibition of portrait drawings and oil sketches includes 31 works from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson. For over 30 years Johnson was Curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Art at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. His unerring eye, tender humanism, and expansionist sensibility have consistently informed his acquisitions, all on a curator’s salary!!
In Johnson’s words, “the challenge of any truly successful portrait is to capture the soul beneath the surface of appearance to discover a variety of expression– from beauty and dignity, satire, sadness, and the macabre. This exhibition attempts to broadly answer the question of portraiture as the “contemplation of character. “
In contrast to tired portraits flattering the rich and powerful typical of the eighteenth century, invigorating movements of Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Realism took hold at the end of the 18th and into the 19th century in a desire for “unvarnished truth” and more honest depictions. A primary driver of this was the invention of photography in the late 1830s freeing artists from providing a mere likeness.
The gallery has added two dozen works from our inventory to create a rare opportunity for Los Angeles collectors to view and to acquire exceptional works of art in a modest range of prices.
“To me art’s subject is the human clay, and landscape but a background to a torso. All Cézanne’s apples I would give away for one small Goya or a Daumier.”
– W. H. Auden