Varieties of Romantic Experience: Drawings from the Collection of Charles Ryskamp

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010

In 1824 David Wilkie (1795–1841) wrote to the comte de Forbin, director of the French Royal Museums, declaring, “It is time to show that the arts are cosmopolitan and that all national prejudice is foreign to them.” Varieties of Romantic Experience was an ambitious exhibition of two hundred Northern European drawings of the Romantic period from the outstanding collection of Charles Ryskamp, director emeritus of the Morgan Library & Museum and The Frick Collection in New York. Featuring work by British, Danish, Dutch, French, and German artists, the exhibition took up Wilkie’s challenge to view Romantic art as international, to put national prejudice aside, and to consider Romanticism as a truly international phenomenon.

Varieties of Romantic Experience demonstrated that despite the very different circumstances in which artists across Europe were working, and the diverse modes of representation they employed, they nonetheless shared common concerns and, in their drawings, frequently explored the same themes. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue were arranged thematically, giving particular emphasis to Romanticism’s novel exploration of two worlds: those of nature and the imagination. Since an exhibition of that scope dedicated to northern European drawings had never before been attempted, bringing the drawings together highlighted for the first time the direct connections between artists who worked in an age when art took on a distinctively collaborative aspect, and demonstrated the simple affinities in approach between artists who could not possibly have known each other. Above all, the drawings when taken together, served to reveal the real cosmopolitanism of Romantic art and the remarkable depth and breadth of many varieties of Romanic experience.

Varieties of Romantic Experience was organized by Matthew Hargraves, Assistant Curator for Collections Research at the Center, in association with Charles Ryskamp.

Cornelius Varley, Talsarnau, North Wales (detail), ca. 1805, pen and brown ink and brown wash over graphite on wove paper, Collection of Charles Ryskamp