Graphic Masters celebrates the extraordinary variety and accomplishment of American artists’ works on paper. Exceptional watercolors, pastels, and drawings from the 1860s through the 1990s reveal the central importance of works on paper for American artists, both as studies for creations in other media and as finished works of art. Traditionally a more intimate form of expression than painting or sculpture, drawings often reveal greater spontaneity and experimentation. Even as works on paper become larger and more finished, competing in scale with easel paintings, they retain a sense of the artist’s hand, the immediacy of a thought made visible.
Ranging from Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone and Childe Hassam’s Appledore to Edward Hopper’s river landscape and Charles Burchfield’s intense abstractions, the watercolors express a breadth of experience from observation to hallucinatory imagination. Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s meticulous portrait of Walt Whitman records not only physical appearance but gives insight into the sitter’s personality as well. Vivid images in glowing color by Stuart Davis and William H. Johnson, as well as confident, black-and-white images by Willem De Kooning and Mel Bochner show the diversity of approaches our most accomplished artists have taken in their works on paper.