Dessiner la lettre,
Écrire le dessin

October 15, 2021 – January 16, 2022


Beaux-Arts de Paris

Cabinet des dessins Jean Bonna
14 rue Bonaparte, Paris 6e

The relationship between text and image has never been so present in contemporary art (Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Street Art, etc.). It is particularly evident in the field of drawing, which is similar to writing in its literal graphic character, but also in its privileged medium, paper.

The exhibition proposes to explore the question of this relationship through the previous centuries. 

The inscriptions affixed by the artist or sometimes by the amateur contribute to a reading of the drawings which, without their presence, would escape their understanding. Thanks to them, the visitor finds himself at the heart of the creation and perceives all the complexities of an invention where imagination, constraints of a commission, visual culture, but also chance and improvisation are mixed. 

The selected works offer a wide typology of writings that generally appear on the drawings: signatures or monograms (Urs Graf), dates (Zuccari), places of execution (Hubert Robert, Natoire), dedications (Puvis de Chavannes), comments related to the context of a commission or a market linking the artist and the client (Pourbus, Martellange). Annotations of colors, dimensions or architectural details contribute to provide information on a project intended to be painted, sculpted or engraved. 

The sources from which the artists drew their inspiration are as many references explicitly inscribed on the sheets: artistic sources, when the draftsman refers to great masters, Michelangelo (Carpeaux), Bramante (Hubert Robert), Holbein (Alberola), literary or oral sources: Homer and Hesiod (de La Fosse), Sophocles (Veronese), Michaux (Unica Zürn), proverbs (Verbeeck, Richer). 

If the inscriptions and the drawings most often form a coherent whole, they sometimes cohabit in a random juxtaposition, which can surprise the visitor. 

Curated by Emmanuelle Brugerolles.

Unica Zürn (1916 – 1970)
Der Geist aus der Fläsche 
Pen, China ink and red ink 
© Beaux-Arts de Paris.