Volume 21, Issue 2 | Summer 2022

Editor’s Introduction

by Britany Salsbury

In nineteenth-century France, drawing served a broad array of functions, from its role as the basis of artistic training to its status as an independent medium with rich potential for experimentation. The availability of an expanded range of materials—from fabricated chalks and pastels to specialty papers and fixatives—encouraged artists to reconsider the place of drawing within their individual practices. Treatises published on processes such as working with charcoal and pastel likewise expanded the possibilities offered by these media and made them more accessible to a broad range of practitioners. At the same time, a growing number of public and private venues began to show French drawings, both in exhibitions devoted to drawings alone and in others where they were displayed alongside paintings, building an interested audience for such works. As the visibility of works on paper grew, so did a community of collectors specifically attracted to the ways in which drawings encouraged close looking and solitary contemplation. In the public sphere, these shifts aligned with the establishment of museum collections in Paris, the French provinces, and abroad, allowing institutions to develop representative holdings of such works while they were still contemporary.

This special summer issue of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide surveys new directions in scholarship on nineteenth-century French drawing in articles that examine some of the ways in which the status of drawing grew as its uses changed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The articles explore both canonical and lesser-known artists whose efforts transformed and were transformed by a reconsideration of artistic practice and available materials, and they consider how such works found audiences, both in their own time and in subsequent decades—through exhibitions, the art market, and public institutions. The contributors’ varied perspectives and expertise allow for an expansive view of the topic at hand.

Drawings Research Today

Despite the prominent place of drawing within the art world of nineteenth-century France, the topic has been the primary subject of relatively little scholarship in recent years. This is likely due in some part to the difficulties inherent in researching drawings. For example, while it is usually possible, if not always simple, to trace a painting’s movement through exhibitions, sales, and collections, drawings often traveled from artists’ studios into the art world more obliquely. They might be mentioned generically as dessins in primary sources, such as posthumous inventories, auction catalogues, or exhibition brochures, or exchanged without documentation between artists or collectors. Even their place within individuals’ holdings complicates our understanding of them; considered a more intimate medium than painting, these works had a less obvious presence than canvases and were often housed in portfolios or hung in private locales, such as cabinets de travail, rather than in the open spaces of the home. These research challenges extend to other drawing-related topics, from the materials and techniques used by artists—which may require technical expertise to be understood—to the ways that the artists learned or taught themselves to draw.

For much of the past century, connoisseurship has remained the dominant methodology in the study of drawings. Scholarship has tended to focus specifically on stylistic characteristics of such works and to take a monographic approach focused on major artists, especially those, such as Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne, from vanguard movements later in the century, particularly impressionism and postimpressionism. Although an approach related to close looking and examination remains central to the field, its scope has broadened over the past several decades. New research on nineteenth-century French drawings has featured an expanded range of topics and, more broadly, a shift toward understanding the drawing process and the function of drawings, including research on the ways in which artists learned to draw and the place of drawing within their education; the public for and reception of drawings; the ways in which these works were displayed in exhibitions; the practices by which drawings were collected and how their owners interacted with them; and the galleries, dealers, and agents that circulated them. Just as the subjects of drawings research have changed, so too have the drawings upon which scholarship has focused. Breaking from a tendency toward studying finished works by major artists, scholars have begun to make lesser-known practitioners who played a major role in the history of drawing the subject of study, along with works formerly deemed minor, such as instructional manuals and preparatory works. This shift toward a broader scope has been mirrored by museums, who have likewise expanded their collecting practices, resulting in a revised view of this field.

Context and Development

The articles in this special issue were selected from a virtual symposium aimed at surveying new directions in the scholarship on nineteenth-century French drawings. The event was part of an ongoing research project that applied new methodological approaches to closely study the nineteenth-century French drawings collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA). Like many museums in the United States, the CMA counted nineteenth-century French drawings among its first acquisitions, and they are a cornerstone of its collection today.‍[1] Support from the Getty Foundation’s The Paper Project allowed this initiative to expand beyond the CMA’s collection and focus more broadly on the state of the field and future directions in scholarship on this topic. This included the symposium “From Creation to Collection: Making and Marketing Drawings in 19th-Century France,” organized with further funding from the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation, which likewise encourages research on the graphic arts. Papers were selected in response to a call soliciting research from various types of professionals focused on the history of collecting nineteenth-century French drawings as well as the materials and techniques of drawing in France during that period. Scheduled for March 2020, this event was one of many that were postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It was held virtually in March 2021, allowing for an international dialogue.‍[2]

Expanding the Topic

The articles in this issue represent the new directions in scholarship on nineteenth-century French drawings described above, including education, materials, exhibitions, the market, and collecting. Arranged in chronological order, they examine a wide variety of makers, materials, uses, and functions for such works.

Patricia Mainardi’s article “Learning to Draw Landscape in Nineteenth-Century France” invites new consideration of the ways in which drawing was taught and learned. Although landscape emerged as a subject of perpetual interest in nineteenth-century France, artists did not learn how to draw this subject during the course of their artistic training. Instead, they relied on manuals published specifically for this purpose, allowing them to move from copying nature directly to conceptualizing it independently and incorporating such imagery into works in various media. Mainardi’s article revises our understanding of how artists learned to draw and the role that this training played throughout their careers.

In her article, “‘Only Artists Were Not Fooled’: Delacroix’s Preparatory Drawings on Tracing Paper,” Ashley Dunn places new emphasis on the process and materials of artmaking by exploring Eugène Delacroix’s use of tracing paper to pivot between original and reproductive works. She argues that this otherwise-well-known artist’s practice was famously one of translation, made possible due to the prevalence of tracing paper in nineteenth-century France. Despite the important role that this material played in Delacroix’s artistic process, it is not discussed in the literature on his oeuvre, and his works on tracing paper were passed over by previous generations of scholars who catalogued his drawings. Dunn argues for the importance of this material to Delacroix’s creative process, challenging assumptions about originality and reproduction as well as preparatory and finished works.

After learning and making, artists often shared their works with the public. Andrew Carrington Shelton’s article “The First Retrospective Exhibition of the Drawings of J.-A.-D. Ingres (1861)” examines one notable example: the first large-scale exhibition of drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in 1861. Despite Ingres’s centrality as a draftsman, his influence on future generations, and the scale of this exhibition—unique in its focus exclusively on drawings—the show has yet to be the subject of scholarly inquiry. Shelton asserts that it transformed the ways in which critics and collectors came to understand drawing within Ingres’s oeuvre and created a new association between the artist, drawing, and line.

The remaining two articles address the lives of drawings after they leave the hands of their artists and move into the market. Danielle Hampton Cullen surveys the career of Paris-based dealer and agent Richard Owen, who was responsible for bringing nineteenth-century French drawings to the attention of individuals responsible for numerous public and private collections in the United States through a market that flourished during the early twentieth century. Despite Owen’s prominent role in creating such connections and his broader impact on the part that nineteenth-century French drawings came to play in museum collections throughout the United States, little is known about the ways in which his transnational business functioned. Cullen closely examines Owen and his sometimes-questionable dealing practices, providing one example by which the sale and marketing of nineteenth-century French drawings during this period can be better understood.

My own article, “The Early Collecting of Nineteenth-Century French Drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1914–34,” considers one example of the collectors who created a market for nineteenth-century French drawings in the United States during the early twentieth century. I examine the foundation of the CMA’s drawings collection and the creation of its department of prints and drawings. As an institution that focused on purchases rather than gifts during the 1910s and 1920s, the CMA’s example as a collector of drawings highlights the historical factors that informed many US museums’ acquisitions of drawings, particularly as nineteenth-century French drawings became a focus in Cleveland. I discuss the first curators of works on paper and several key early purchases that they made, which illustrate the ways in which the market for drawings functioned at this time.

Together, these articles shed new light on the function and importance of drawing for artists working in nineteenth-century France, and on the audiences for such works and the legacy they left in the twentieth century. The five studies contribute to the vast scholarship on drawings by individual French artists by considering underexamined areas of research and opening up new avenues for further exploration.


Although I served as guest editor for this issue, it was very much a collaboration. I am grateful to the individual authors, who weathered many shifts and changes in the various iterations of the original symposium and were willing to revisit their topics over the course of several years—ones during which research remained especially difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aforementioned grants from the Getty Foundation’s The Paper Project initiative and the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation made this issue possible, as did additional funding from the Division of Arts and Humanities and the Department of History of Art, both located in the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University, and support from the Cleveland Museum of Art. There, I am especially grateful for the efforts of Rachel Beamer, Heather Lemonedes Brown, and John Kelly, who were helpful with details related to this issue. I would also like to thank Petra Chu, Kimberly Orcutt, and Isabel Taube at Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide for their feedback and assistance with preparing this issue for publication, Robyn Roslak for her skillful copyediting, and Allan McLeod for his expertise with website development. I hope that its contents will highlight the centrality of drawings in nineteenth-century France and encourage future work in this rich field.


[1] This collection will be featured in a forthcoming exhibition of approximately forty-five works, on view from January 20 through June 11, 2023. This display will be accompanied by a scholarly publication—the first to substantively document the CMA’s collection of nineteenth-century French drawings, with catalogue entries on the included objects and thematic essays by scholars in the field. Exhibition details can be found on the CMA’s website.

[2] A full schedule of presentations is available in the CMA’s online event archive.