The exhibition provides a survey of German drawings from the Late Middle Ages to the Baroque, and insight into the various themes, functions and techniques of artworks executed on paper. The show’s leitmotif is Albrecht Dürer’s observation »but utility is a large part of beauty«, which sums up the broad spectrum of the works on view. The latter range from exercises, studies and preparatory sketches for paintings, prints and sculptures to drawings meriting appreciation as artworks – and valuable collector’s items – in their own right.
This multifaceted exhibition not only highlights the various techniques and functions of drawing, but also guides visitors through a chapter in the history of draughtsmanship. In addition to Medieval book illumination and Renaissance sketches, works of Mannerist art and examples from the Baroque period bring the chronological line to life.
Works by Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach are further enhanced by drawings from the hand of Hans Baldung Grien. His »Reposing Nude Lovers«, executed in 1527, is an example of draughtsmanship with the status of a finished artwork rather than merely one of a pageful of studies for a prospective painting. In contrast, Wendel Dietterlin’s »Last Judgement« (1590) provides an example of a preparatory drawing, in this case for one of the ceiling paintings in the Upper Hall of the »Neues Lustschloss« (New Pleasure Palace) in Stuttgart. It depicts three major themes from the Story of Christ’s Life and Sufferings after a programme drawn up by the Württemberg court chaplain and incorporating the duchy of that land into the divine Plan of Salvation.
The exhibition moreover features the various thematic areas prevalent within the epochs it addresses. In addition to depictions of the Passion and battle scenes, the selection comprises such works as sketches of heads and allegories. A page by Lucas Cranach the Younger shows a wide spectrum of drawings, from studies of individual facial features to sketches executed in colour in preparation for the epitaph of a mayor painted in 1558. Johann Rottenhammer’s allegory »Vanitas Mundi« (after 1600) can be understood as a model for a larger painting. In it, he directs his focus not to the transience of life in general, but to the insignificance of earthly riches.
One special highlight of the show is a group of veduti by Matthaeus Merian the Elder, among them a precise rendering of the ducal court of Württemberg in Stuttgart as it presented itself in the early seventeenth century. Not only the old castle, the collegiate church and the extensive gardens are clear to see: Merian also included tournament racetracks and the New Pleasure House built by Georg Beer between 1583 and 1593, giving the beholder an impression of Stuttgart’s appearance in the year 1616.
On the whole, the exhibition reflects the profile of this important sub-section of the graphic department’s collection, for which a catalogue raisonné has recently been published. The result of many years of research, this scholarly catalogue comprises more than one thousand drawings, the great majority of which have never before been reproduced in books. Moreover, in many cases the authors succeeded in attributing the drawings to specific artists as well as determining the works’ functions and provenances.
The Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs encompasses some 400,000 works, of which many are scarcely known. The department grants interested persons the opportunity to study the holdings individually upon request in its study hall. The drawings not shown in the exhibition but only reproduced in the catalogue are thus also made accessible to the public. Beginning in April, the staff of the study service will be on duty every Thursday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Steib Wing of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, entrance Urbanstr. 41, to retrieve the works of your choice from the storerooms.