Watteau to Degas: French Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection
Frederik Johannes Lugt (1884–1970) was a Dutch art historian, connoisseur, and collector. His fame in scholarly circles derives from two pioneering publications, still in use today: his Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes, published in 1921, which identifies the collectors' marks found on Old Master prints and drawings, and the Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques intéressant l'art ou la curiosité, a comprehensive listing of nearly 90,000 auction catalogues from sales occurring between 1600 and 1925, published in four volumes between 1938 and 1987.
Frits Lugt, as he was known, was a born collector. By the age of eight, he had sold his shell collection to the natural history department of Amsterdam's royal zoo; at fifteen, he acquired his first drawing. In his thirties, he began to collect in a more serious and systematic way, specializing in Dutch and Flemish drawings and prints, always his chief interest. During the 1920s, the decade in which he made his most important acquisitions, he also bought fifteenth-century Italian drawings and eighteenth-century French sheets.
Lugt was among the founders and principal supporters of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), the institute devoted to the study of Netherlandish art and artists, established in The Hague in 1930. In 1947, he created the Fondation Custodia in Paris, to care for and add to his collection of 6,000 Old Master drawings and 30,000 prints. The Frits Lugt Collection is widely regarded by specialists as one of the finest of its kind, but it is less well known to the general public. Curators at The Frick Collection were invited to select for the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue Lugt's finest eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French drawings, and the sixty-four works featured in the exhibition illuminate both Lugt's taste and that of his successors. Included were drawings and watercolors by well-known masters of the French School such as Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, David, Ingres, and Degas, as well as by important figures who are less familiar to the general public. This was the first time that a group of French master drawings from the Fondation Custodia had traveled to New York.
Principal funding for the exhibition was provided by Peter and Sofia Blanchard; Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard; and Melvin R. Seiden in honor of Jean Bonna and Eugene V. Thaw.