The European, American and Asian prints and drawings collection, which comprises more than 2,500 drawings and over 10,000 prints, is the most substantial in Canada and among the finest in North America.
The collection is particularly strong in 16th-century Italian drawings, 18th- and 19th-century British drawings and French 19th-century prints. Memorable selections from these areas include Reclining Male Nude (c. 1530–1540) by Jacopo Pontormo, Oak Trees, Shoreham, Kent (c. 1828) by Samuel Palmer, and the Large Bathers (1896–c. 1898), a lithograph with watercolour by Paul Cezanne.
For its drawing collection, the Gallery has been fortunate to acquire the preparatory sketches for works of art already in its possession. Among the most remarkable is a final study for the celebrated painting The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. Other highlights include luminous pastels of dancers and racehorses by Edgar Degas; a superb group of drawings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age encompassing landscapes, portraits, history pieces, genre scenes and figure studies that form part of a significant gift from Frank and Marianne Seger; the Lanigan Collection – an exceptional array of British works from the Victorian era; as well as a small but beautiful selection of Asian scrolls.
In addition to important individual prints like Antonio del Pollaiuolo’s The Battle of the Naked Men and Andy Warhol’s Wayne Gretzky 99 are a number of large sets, or suites, of prints. One of the high points of the Italian School is the complete sets of Carceri d'invenzioni (Imaginary Prisons) by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1745–1761) in both editions. The modern Russian School took on a new importance in the collection with the gift from Félix Quinet of over 600 prints by Marc Chagall that cover six decades of work, including the suite of colour lithographs Daphnis & Chloé (1957–1961). The Spanish holdings are notable for their print series by Francisco Goya, including the complete Caprichos (1797–1799), the Disasters of War (1810–1820) and the Tauromaquia (1815–1816). Another treasure is Pablo Picasso’s Vollard Suite (1930–1937), 100 prints of classical and mythological subjects featuring the sculptor, his models and the Minotaur.
While 70 or so engravings and woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer form the core of the German holdings, the Flemish School is well represented by the 292 portraits comprised in Anthony van Dyck’s Iconography (c. 1625–1641). From the Dutch School, some 40 works by Rembrandt van Rijn reveal this great master of etching at his finest as do the nearly 225 pieces by M. C. Escher donated by his son George—the world’s third largest public collection of prints by this ever-popular 20th century graphic artist.
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