Diverse display of old masters, modern drawings

Art lovers can look forward to a lush display scheduled for Dec. 18-Feb. 26 at the National Gallery of Art's West Building Ground Floor galleries. Seventy-seven old master and modern drawings will be on view, including works by Raphael, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Boucher, Goya, Redon, Seurat, Matisse, Correggio, and Cellini. The exhibit is now on display at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth , Texas, through Nov. 13.

The drawings come from the collection of Ian Woodner, one of the most important holdings in the United States, and reflect both the diversity and beauty of the collection. Selections include preparatory studies for paintings and sculpture, designs relating to the theater, opera, and ballet, and manuscript illustrations. They also represent a variety of styles, media, and schools: Italian, German and Swiss, Dutch and Flemish, French and Spanish.

One interesting theme is the beginning of Western drawing and its evolution from the 14th to the mid-20th centuries. And among the exceptional early Italian works on view is Taddeo Gaddi's (c.1300) ''Studies of St. Francis Kneeling and other Figures.'' This drawing shows the transition from the flat Byzantine style to the more three-dimensional quality of late drawings. Another drawing of exceptional quality from a later period is Benvenuto Cellini's ''Satyr,'' one of the most important 16th-century drawings in private American collections, known for its goldsmith-like refinement of detail.

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Also on view - a beautiful finished color gouache of a bird's ''Wing'' attributed to Albrecht Durer. Durer signed and dated many of his drawings, thereby establishing a historical reference.

Rembrandt did about 1,400 drawings, many of narrative subjects used as a vehicle to explore the psychological meaning of his subjects. One such drawing on display is ''The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee'' (c. 1647).

One of Redon's drawings in the exhibit has an especially enigmatic quality. The ''Cactus Man'' (1800s), done with the artist's extraordinary handling of charcoal and his unusual combinations of subject matter, has a man's face emerging from a cactus - imagery thought to represent Christ - with the spikes of the cactus representing the crown of thorns.

The exhibit also includes Henry Matisse's ''Seated Woman'' (1940), executed in charcoal on off-white paper, which has a rhythmic animation and reflects the artist's sentiments that line drawing was ''the purest and most direct translation of (his) emotion.''

The exhibit is also tentatively scheduled for the spring of 1985 at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

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