Significant pieces by Paul Cézanne, Wassily Kandinsky, and more are heading to London’s Courtauld Gallery as part of a transformative gift of modern drawings. The 25 works on paper were assembled by the late British collector Howard Karshan, and donated in his memory by his wife, the artist Linda Karshan.
The Courtland gallery’s renowned collection includes masterpieces like Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Its massive holdings of works on paper count pieces by artists such as Leonardo, Rembrandt and Rubens, but until now, the museum was sorely missing masterpieces from the 20th century. Aside from Cézanne, none of the artists included in the Karshan gift were previously represented in the gallery’s holdings.
Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen, head of Courtauld Gallery, told the Guardian that the gift was “important beyond its size.”
“[The Courtauld Gallery] is also one of the most active collections in terms of exhibitions and displays and loans,” said Vegelin. “Despite that, our representation of draughtsmanship in the 20th century is hesitant, so this gives us a fantastic new chapter in the collection and a great basis for future growth.”
The gift includes watercolors by Cézanne, as well as drawings by Cy Twombly, Georg Baselitz and Joseph Beuys. Also represented are drawings by less known artists which Vegelin called “astonishing and revelatory,” including two expressive finger drawings by Swiss artist and violinist Louis Soutter.
Soutter produced his most celebrated body of work while interned against his will in hospice in Ballaigues, a small village in Switzerland. The dancing ink and gouache figures, depicted on whatever he could find—notebook, envelops, fragments of wrapping papers—earned him a small but dedicated following that included his cousin Le Corbusier. The gallery will also receive a piece by the Abstract Expressionist artist Sam Francis and a series of abstract works by Belgian painter and writer Henri Michaux that were created while he was high on mescaline.
“It is not a collection that someone has put together from a reference book, it is a collection with real edge and bite and character that really gets under the skin of drawing as an art form,” Vegelin said.
The Karshan gift will go on display in late 2021, when the historic gallery reopens following a $70.5 million modernization project.