The Yale University Art Gallery announces the extraordinary gift/purchase of more than 190 late 18th- and 19th-century Italian drawings, watercolors, and sketchbooks from the collection of Roberta J. M. Olson and Alexander B. V. Johnson.
Comprising over 400 individual sheets, this superb trove is among the finest in private hands anywhere in the world and represents a comprehensive, panoramic view of drawings by Italian artists made between 1780 and 1890, a period known as the Ottocento. Together, these works define and illuminate the multiple artistic trends at play in the art and politics of the Italian Peninsula during this pivotal century. With this remarkable cache, the Gallery becomes the largest repository of and primary research center in the United States for 19th-century Italian art.
Freyda Spira, the Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Gallery, comments, “The Olson/Johnson collection offers an exceptional opportunity to explore this rich but underrepresented period in American collections. We’re thrilled to be the recipient of such an extraordinary, transformative gift.”
The collection contains works by major artists from all the regional schools; those represented in-depth include Andrea Appiani, Lorenzo Bartolini, Giovanni Boldini, Giacinto Gigante, Tommaso Minardi, Pelagio Pelagi, Bartolomeo Pinelli, and Luigi Sabatelli. It also features singular works by other highly significant artists, such as Giacomo Balla, Antonio Canova, and Giulio Aristide Sartorio. With the exception of Pinelli and Sabatelli, each of whom is represented in the Gallery’s collection by a superlative example, the artists in the gift are not already found in the museum’s holdings. The Olson/Johnson collection includes an astonishing 39 drawings and watercolors by Pinelli, as well as a rare album of watercolors, and 11 sheets by Sabatelli, three of which are to be counted among the artist’s greatest masterpieces.
The Gallery has a long history of collecting European and American works of art from the 19th-century—the age of nationalism—and the Olson/Johnson works build on that tradition, increasing the breadth of its holdings. Although drawings by Ottocento artists are scattered in major museums throughout the United States, there is no institution with extensive, in-depth holdings like those now in the Gallery’s collection as a result of this acquisition. Scholars, students, and visitors alike will be able to delve more deeply into the history of the period and its artists, expanding an understanding of the 19th century in Europe during this rich and turbulent period.
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