Drawn By New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society


The New-York Historical Society?s drawing collection is one of the earliest assembled in the United States, yet its trove of over 8,000 sheets and 75 rare sketchbooks is surprisingly unknown. Drawn by New York presents over 200 highlights, spanning six centuries, from 16th-century avian watercolours and a Dutch view of New Amsterdam (1650), to the fa?ade of St. Patrick?s Cathedral captured from inside Rockefeller Center by Richard Haas (2002) and representations of the World Trade Center, both before and after ...
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The New-York Historical Society’s drawing collection is one of the earliest assembled in the United States, yet its trove of over 8,000 sheets and 75 rare sketchbooks is surprisingly unknown. Drawn by New York presents over 200 highlights, spanning six centuries, from 16th-century avian watercolours and a Dutch view of New Amsterdam (1650), to the façade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral captured from inside Rockefeller Center by Richard Haas (2002) and representations of the World Trade Center, both before and after September 11th 2001. There are works by Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and John Singer Sargent, sheets by Asher B. Durand, and a cache of 500 watercolours by John James Audubon (including those for The Birds of America, 1827–38). Over 200 “Outline Drawings” by George Catlin record long-vanished Native American cultures.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“As lavish as it is weighty” and “Highly recommended” K. Rhodes, Drew University, Choice

“the gorgeously illustrated accompanying catalogue provides informative commentary on each work” Antiques & Fine Art

“I also strongly recommend Ms Olson’s massive and outstanding catalog” The New York Sun

Library Journal

The New York Historical Society (NYHS) was the first in the United States to gather and present a collection of public drawing. Yet it did not escape perennial problems of funding, preservation issues, provenance documentation, and development of purpose. As part of an evolving sense of mission, this exhibition catalog wonderfully represents the holdings and studies of the NYHS and the impact they have had, historically and artistically; it provides an excellent foundation of American art and specifically represents the development of New York State as a microcosm for the country. The NYHS's web site supplies a good overview, but a monograph such as this better addresses the specific needs of scholars. Olson (art history, emerita, Wheaton Coll.; curator of drawings, NYHS) includes works by artists such as John James Audubon, designers for Tiffany Studios, and more contemporary New York names (especially intriguing is Donna Levinstone's 9/11 series, Eternal Rest). Recommended for libraries specializing in art history and history and libraries with local interests.
—Nadine Dalton Speidel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781904832348
  • Publisher: D Giles Limited
  • Publication date: 7/25/2008
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 1.90 (d)

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    choice selections from the art holdings of the New York Historical Society

    More than 250 of the New York Historical Society's works of art are catalogued in color. These are arranged chronologically beginning from the mid seventeenth century views of Manhattan and environs settled by the Dutch to photographs and other works from the first years of this century. The large majority of the works are by American artists. The subject matter is broadly Americana favoring New York city local sights, subjects, and themes and extending out from the city to surrounding areas, Long Island, and other parts of New York state (e. g., Niagara Falls). Generic or representational works such as ones of persons or trees or animals (e. g., Audubon folio prints) are chosen for their exceptional quality alone or as outstanding period pieces which could apply to the New York City area (for example, how persons dressed, what a room in a home looked like). The format regarding each artist and respective work or group of few in the case of especially important artists such as Audubon and George Catlin is the same. First comes biographical overview including occupations other than art and comments on characteristic style and subject matter. Appended to this is a bibliography. The biography can vary in length from part of one column in the three-columned pages to several columns running over two or more pages depending on the placement of the related art work or works. After the artist bibliography comes the title or identification of the art work with detailed notes on its type, size, materials, coloring, provenance, and exhibition history. The follows rich critical commentary on the representative work, usually including historical and cultural matter as well as analysis of the work. 'Animals were customary subjects in the penmanship genre, as children found them appealing. Horses, leaping deer, and patriotic eagles are among the most common subjects because the natural cures of these animals' bodies suited the repetitive and rhythmic flourishes necessary to the development of a confident calligraphic style,' is part of the commentary for a Calligraphic Horse, c.1850, by a James T. Sutes when he was a boy. The ending for the format is notes for the critical commentary. These often contain interesting and informative material in their own right. Roberta Olsen's introductory essay--followed by 47 notes--traces the history of the New York Historical Society mostly from the perspective of its art holdings, noting favorite artistic subjects in different eras and highlighting special works and artists. The eclecticism of the works is not only a matter of the extraordinary, trained eye and tastes of those who collected them over the years of the Society's existence starting in 1804 and the available funds for purchases, but also the ill-defined mission and goals--i. e., identity--of the Society. Olson notes the 'evolution [of the collection] is as complex as the history of the Society itself.' What Olson refers to as 'complexity' is a boon for art lovers and historians. The New York Historical Society art collection has no comparison not only for its high quality but for its eclecticism, including many unique items. It is especially educating because it supplements the grand sweep and level of art works at major museums by shining lights into the smaller, less ambitious, and in some cases amateurish works of art which preserve local scenes and other historical details which may have otherwise vanished. The exhibition of the 250 selected works now on view at the New York Historical Society will travel to Vassar and later the Taft Museum in Cincinnati.

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