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First Exhibition of Drawings by 18th-Century French Master Opens at the Getty Museum

Greuze the Draftsman
September 10-December 1, 2002

Press Preview: Tuesday, September 10, 2002, 9-11 a.m.

August 15, 2002

Greuze the Painter: Los Angeles Works in Context
French Drawings in the Age of Greuze
Magnificent Melodrama film series

LOS ANGELES--Greuze the Draftsman, the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the drawings of French master painter and draftsman Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805), will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from September 10 through December 1, 2002. Popular in his own time, Greuze remains indisputably one of France’s greatest draftsmen. Organized by The Frick Collection in New York in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition brings together 70 remarkable drawings borrowed from both U.S. and European private and public collections, including works from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. The exhibition’s only other presentation was at The Frick Collection, where it was highly acclaimed, from May 14 through August 4, 2002.

The exhibition includes drawings in all media, including chalk, ink, and pastel. These works explore a range of subjects, highlighting two of Greuze’s favorite topics: human expression and the drama of family life. Drawings on view that illustrate these themes include the theatrical The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son (about 1778) and the expressive Head of an Old Man (about 1755)—both from the Getty Museum’s collection. The
Getty’s newly acquired compositional study of about 1772–75 for Greuze’s painting The Charitable Woman  has been added to the exhibition’s presentation in Los Angeles. Also featured are 10 sheets from the State Hermitage Museum, purchased directly from the artist in the 1760s by Ivan Ivanovitch Betskoy, a prominent dignitary in the circle of Catherine the Great.

“The vivid, graceful, and theatrical portrayals of the human experience in the works of Greuze are instantly engaging,” said Lee Hendrix, curator of drawings at the Getty Museum. “These drawings are sure to move and delight Getty visitors.”

The presentation of Greuze the Draftsman at the Getty is enhanced in a number of ways. In adjacent galleries, Greuze the Painter: Los Angeles Works in Context displays paintings by the artist in Los Angeles museum collections alongside works from national and international lenders. The installation at the Getty also features a section exploring the French Salon system and Greuze’s triumphs and failures within that system as charted in books and ephemeral publications. This section, entitled “Greuze in Print,” includes objects from the Getty Research Institute’s special collections as well as those from lenders nationwide. Finally, to further contextualize Greuze the Draftsman, the Getty is presenting French Drawings in the Age of Greuze, a survey of 18th-century French drawings from the Museum’s collection.  

Exhibition Organization and Highlights

Greuze the Draftsman explores the artist’s remarkably long career of more than 50 years, revealing a gifted draftsman in all media and a master who charted an original course during years of momentous artistic and societal change. A celebrated painter, Greuze also received rave reviews for his drawings from contemporary critics including the author and encyclopedist Denis Diderot, who in 1763 proclaimed, “This man draws like an angel.”

The exhibition opens with a section devoted to Greuze’s earliest works, made while he was a student in the early 1750s, followed by drawings executed during his sojourn in Rome from 1755 
o 1757. Greuze’s fertile decade of the 1760s is recalled by preparatory studies for such celebrated paintings as A Marriage Contract, The Paralytic, and The Beloved Mother, as well as independent drawings created for discerning art collectors.

The exhibition also displays Greuze’s experiments with historical subjects around 1767. The artist had been provisionally accepted into the Academy as a painter of genre subjects (themes from everyday life), but he sought to change his designation to that of a history painter, the highest rank in the Academy. In 1769, he submitted the painting Septimius Severus and Caracalla for consideration but was harshly criticized for this attempt to elevate his position. Infuriated, Greuze did not exhibit at the Salon for another 30 years. He returned to subjects from contemporary life but treated them in a new, grand manner, exemplified by The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son of 1777. Toward the end of the exhibition, drawings from the artist’s late years are marked by an interest in traditional religious subjects as well as portraits, in which his skills as a pastelist are revealed.

One of the highlights of Greuze the Draftsman is the sensual Head of a Woman (about 1765). A tour de force of Greuze’s red chalk technique, the drawing presents a startlingly frank portrayal of a woman in the throes of ecstasy. Greuze rendered her hair languidly falling over her shoulders in long, independent strokes, and articulated her face with tiny, controlled hatched lines.  This drawing is an outstanding example of Greuze’s expressive heads (têtes d’expression), which capture a vast range of intense human emotion in close-up, often life-size studies. The painting Greuze made after the Head of a Woman will be on view in Greuze the Painter: Los Angeles Works in Context.

Another remarkable work in the exhibition is the Getty’s The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son. In this wrenching scene, the father extends his hands in anger toward his son who is abandoning his family to join the army. A young girl kneeling in front of her father is trying to pacify him, while the mother embraces her son. On the threshold, the recruiting sergeant witnesses the spectacle with indifference. The Father’s Curse exemplifies the revolutionary way in which Greuze portrayed the pathos and emotion of everyday life.

“It is the real world in all of its varied manifestations that Greuze captured in his endless catalog of life,” said Edgar Munhall, chief curator of The Frick Collection from 1965 to 1999 and guest curator of Greuze the Draftsman. “Had he lived 100 years later, he would have been called a realist; had he lived 200 years later, he would have been a great filmmaker.”

Unprecedented Loan from the State Hermitage Museum

Ten drawings on loan from the State Hermitage Museum are displayed in the Getty’s presentation of Greuze the Draftsman; many have not previously been shown outside Russia. A contemporary of Greuze, Catherine the Great had tremendous admiration for the artist’s work and even attempted to entice him to come to St. Petersburg.  Ivan Ivanovitch Betskoy, a prominent dignitary at the Empress’ court and an avid collector, purchased a large number of drawings by Greuze, perhaps following a stay in Paris, and eventually gave them to the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts.  These later entered the State Hermitage Museum and constitute the largest group of Greuze drawings outside the Louvre. 

Related Publications

Edgar Munhall’s Greuze the Draftsman, a fully illustrated catalog that accompanies the exhibition, is the first publication devoted to Greuze’s work as a draftsman and the most comprehensive study on the artist since Munhall’s catalog for the 1976 exhibition Jean-Baptiste Greuze/1725–1805. Published by Merrell Publishers, London, Greuze the Draftsman (284 pages,
hardcover $75.00, paperback $49.95) includes an introduction and summary biography of the artist by Munhall, as well as his entries on 96 works, all of which are reproduced in color, and many with additional comparative illustrations. The book also features an essay by Irina Novosselskaya, head of the department of European art of the State Hermitage Museum, recounting for the first time in English the history of its drawings by Greuze. Munhall will give a lecture at the Getty on September 12, 2002.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze: The Laundress (90 pages, paperback $17.95), published by the J. Paul Getty Museum, is a lively and engrossing book with 40 color and 32 black-and-white illustrations. Author Colin B. Bailey, chief curator of The Frick Collection, traces the history of the Getty’s The Laundress, Greuze’s painting that was exhibited to great acclaim in the Salon of 1761, and explores social mores and the role of the artist’s model in the 18th century. The book also provides an enlightening account of Greuze’s life and influences. 

For ordering information, visit the Bookstore, go to, or call (800) 223-3431.

Related Public Programs

All events are free and are held in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Center unless otherwise noted. Seating reservations are required unless otherwise noted. For reservations and information the public may call 310-440-7300 or visit

Film Series
The Magnificent Melodrama: Films by D.W. Griffith and Douglas Sirk
A film series Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., October 11 through 26, 2002.  Produced by the J. Paul Getty Museum in partnership with the UCLA Film and Television Archive

This series was inspired by Greuze’s drawing The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son, a work that illustrates the decidedly melodramatic theme of familial morals and discontent. D.W. Griffith, who began his directorial career in 1908, developed a precise language for silent film melodrama, aided by the talent of actress Lillian Gish, his editing technique, camera movement, lighting, and use of close-up, as well as his social concerns (particularly his interest in the family). Douglas Sirk began his filmic career in Germany in 1934, but left in 1937 and began making films in Hollywood in 1943. Sirk is best known for his lavishly filmed domestic melodramas of the 1950s. Blending the atmosphere of post World War II confusion, Cold War paranoia, and America’s fascination with Sigmund Freud, Sirk created entertainment that poked fun at the complacent status-quo ideology of the Eisenhower years. Griffith and Sirk are supreme cinematic stylists, and their work engages on many levels, at once celebrating and severely questioning basic American values.

Silent films will have an accompanist.

Friday, October 11, 7:30 p.m.
Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919)
A gentle Chinese shopkeeper harbors a woman, portrayed by Lillian Gish, from her brutal father.

Saturday, October 12, 7:30 p.m.
Way Down East (D.W. Griffith, 1920)
Lillian Gish portrays a wife and mother tossed aside, eventually saved on the ice floes by a good man.

Friday, October 18, 7:30 p.m.
Orphans of the Storm (D.W. Griffith, 1921)
Lillian and Dorothy Gish star as separated sisters, one who is blind, who labor in the French Revolution.

Saturday, October 19, 7:30 p.m.
Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954)
Rock Hudson unwittingly kills a man, only to fall in love with his wife and cure her blindness.

Friday, October 25, 7:30 p.m.
Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
A high-powered Texas oil family melodrama details the mismatches between the spoiled children of the family and the relatively “normal” outsiders.

Saturday, October 26, 7:30 p.m.
Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1958)
A rags-to-riches tale of two women—one black, one white—and their suffering, particularly as the black woman’s daughter is bent on passing for white.

Who Was Greuze?
Dr. Edgar Munhall, curator emeritus, The Frick Collection, New York, provides a fresh examination of Greuze, including the full range of his art, his professional intentions, and his life’s merit in the context of the exhibition Greuze the Draftsman.
Thursday, September 12, 7 p.m.

The Restorer’s Work: Thoughts about the Art and Science of Paintings Conservation
Mark Leonard, head of paintings conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores the tendency of paintings to gradually reveal their secrets during conservation treatment. He will illustrate this phenomenon by discussing the recent conservation of paintings by Greuze and Orazio Gentileschi.
Thursday, October 10, 7 p.m.

Point-of-View Talks
Talks are held at 6 and 7:30 p.m. in the Getty Museum galleries. Sign up at the Museum Information Desk beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Sheila Pinkel is a photographer and computer graphics artist whose work overtly addresses social concerns.
Friday, October 18

Domenic Cretara is a figurative painter who is an avid admirer of Greuze’s work. He is also a teacher at California State University, Long Beach.
Friday, November 15

Artist-at-Work Demonstrations
Visitors can drop by as artist Deni Ponty demonstrates how an artist transforms a drawing into a painting.
Thursdays: October 10, 17, and 24, and November 7 and 14Sundays: October 13 and 27, and November 3, 10, and 17
1–3 p.m.
East Pavilion Art Information Room

Gallery Talks
Exhibitions Pavilion talks will be offered Tuesdays through Sundays at 1:30 p.m. beginning September 17.  No reservations required.

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The Frick Collection:
Housed in the Gilded Age mansion of Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) on New York's famed Fifth Avenue, the museum is one of the most important collections of Western fine art and decorative arts in the world, featuring works by Bellini, El Greco, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Vermeer, Whistler, and many others.  In addition to major paintings by these and other masters, the Frick's galleries contain fine French porcelains, Italian bronzes, sculptures, and period furniture.  The permanent collection is further enriched by frequent presentations of special exhibitions, such as Greuze the Draftsman.

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.