An outstanding group of modern drawings by European and American masters assembled by the late collector Howard Karshan has been presented to The Courtauld Gallery in London by his wife, the artist Linda Karshan. It is one of the most significant gifts of art to The Courtauld in a generation.
Living between London and New York, Howard and Linda formed a preeminent collection of modern drawings. Collecting with great discernment and passion, the drawings were an essential part of their lives for more than half a century. A carefully chosen group of 25 works on paper by leading artists of the modern and post-war period, which lay at the heart of their collection, forms this generous gift.
The works being given to The Courtauld demonstrate Howard and Linda’s sensibility for the expressive power and rich variety of drawing as an art form. The works are characterised by innovative mark-making and distinctive use of line. Examples range from radical watercolours by Cézanne and highly expressive finger drawings in ink by Louis Soutter, to abstract compositions made by Henri Michaux whilst experimenting with Mescalin to explore the subconscious, and on to works by Twombly that further broadened the possibilities of draughtsmanship.
The Karshan gift will transform The Courtauld’s collection by extending its major historical holdings fully into the twentieth century. It will join the gallery’s internationally renowned collection of 7,000 drawings, including masterpieces from the Renaissance onwards. Aside from Cézanne, none of the artists included in the gift has previously been represented in the collection.
The Karshan collection will be a major springboard for a wide range of future activities at The Courtauld, including exhibitions, displays, research projects, teaching and schools programmes.
Linda Karshan said: “Howard was as passionate about studying his drawings as he was about collecting them. He carefully positioned them on the walls around him, so as to be able to have his favourites within sight.
These are the drawings that make up the Karshan Gift. At The Courtauld, they will find their natural home, where they can be in the public eye while being studied for generations to come, echoing the role these drawings played within our family for over 50 years.”
Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld, said: “Howard and Linda Karshan have been close friends of The Courtauld for many years. We are deeply honoured that Linda has chosen to give this outstanding group of drawings to us in memory of Howard, who assembled such a remarkable collection of modern works on paper with her over many years. Gifts and bequests from major collectors have always been fundamental to the growth of our collections and these works from the Howard Karshan Collection will truly transform our holdings. Howard and Linda, herself a distinguished artist, always cherished the particular role The Courtauld undertakes as a public gallery and as a centre of education. We are hugely excited by the prospect of making these drawings a vital part of our collection and activities to inspire future visitors, scholars and students alike.”
The gift of 25 drawings from the Howard Karshan Collection features works by Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Paul Cézanne, Otto Dix, Jean Dubuffet, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, Philip Guston, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Henri Michaux, Gerhard Richter, Louis Soutter, Wayne Thiebaud, and Cy Twombly.
The works will be exhibited at The Courtauld Gallery when it reopens in late 2021. This follows a major transformation project to restore its grandeur and create state-of-the-art facilities, which is supported by £9.5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and generous donations from foundations, individuals and supporters.
The modernisation project is the most significant in The Courtauld’s history, since it moved to the North Wing of Somerset House in London in 1989. Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann, the Gallery redevelopment revitalises and opens up the magnificent building conceived by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s and celebrates its fascinating heritage.
The Karshan gift will be accompanied by a new illustrated catalogue, edited by Coralie Malissard, Bridget Riley Art Foundation Curatorial Assistant and Barnaby Wright, Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Daniel Katz Curator of 20th Century Art, and published by Paul Holberton, published in late 2021.
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