The Frick Collection
The West Gallery of The Frick Collection
Special Exhibition

Watteau to Degas: French Drawings from the Frits Lugt Collection
October 6, 2009, through January 10, 2010


Photograph of the Institut Néerlandais
in Paris, 121 rue de Lille (1990)

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), Woman Lying on a Sofa, c . 1717–18, red, black, and white chalk, 21.7 x 31.1 cm, Fondation Custodia, Paris
Photograph of the rear of the Hotel Turgot,

Frederik Johannes Lugt was eager to establish his collection in an active urban center and in 1947 Lugt created the Fondation Custodia in Paris. In 1953 he acquired the Hôtel Turgot at 121, rue de Lille, as a home for his collection, and it was in this building that the Institut Néerlandais was inaugurated in January 1957. For the next thirteen years, Lugt poured his considerable energy into organizing exhibitions, catalogues, concerts, and lectures in this cultural center a few steps from the Assemblée Nationale. After his death, the activities of the Fondation continued unabated, and the collections were extended by his successors, Carlos van Hasselt (1929–2009), who served as director between 1970 and 1994, and Mària van Berge-Gerbaud, the current director.

The collection of French drawings at the Fondation Custodia now numbers more than eight hundred sheets. Our selection of sixty-four eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works illuminates both Lugt’s taste and that of his successors. As someone who had no academic or institutional training and who approached works of art as a connoisseur — albeit a highly disciplined, scholarly connoisseur — Lugt was drawn to Watteau, Boucher, Saint-Aubin, and Fragonard, the pantheon of eighteenth-century French artists established in the 1860s by Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. Nineteenth-century art held little attraction for him, however, and Lugt’s acquisition of drawings by Delacroix, Degas, and Morisot was exceptional. Most of the nineteenth-century drawings in our selection have been purchased by the directors who succeeded him.