Why Draw? 500 Years of Drawings and Watercolors at Bowdoin College

Museum of Art Museum of Art

Exhibition: Why Draw? 500 Years of Drawings and Watercolors at Bowdoin College



Focus Gallery, Media Gallery, Halford Gallery, Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery, Center Gallery, Becker Gallery
Presenting historic and contemporary selections from one of the nation’s oldest collections of drawings, at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, this highly engaging exhibition explores the significance and pleasures found in tracing movements of the hand on paper by asking the question “Why Draw?”

Selected Works

"Dead Christ with Angels," 1614–1627, brush and black ink and grey wash by Leonard Bramer, Dutch, 1596–1674. Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III
"Bathsheba," ca. 1724, pen and brown ink and brown wash, by Sebastiano Ricci, Italian, 1659–1734. Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III.
'Fungi,' watercolor and gouache, by William Henry Hunt, British, 1790–1864. Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss
"The End of the Hunt," 1892, watercolor over graphite, by Winslow Homer American, 1836 – 1910. Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker.
"The Barefoot Child," 1897, pastel, by Mary Cassatt American, 1844–1926. Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth, in memory of her husband, Dr. Murray S. Danforth, Class of 1901
"Untitled Drawing," 1943, graphite and colored crayon, by Arshile Gorky, American, 1904–1948. Gift of Walter K. Gutman, Class of 1924
"Untitled," 1955, brush and black ink by Franz Kline, American, 1910–1962. Gift of Walter K. Gutman, Class of 1924
"Running Fence," 1976, graphite, pastel, charcoal, fabric collage, by Christo, American, born 1935. Museum Purchase, George Otis Hamlin Fund with the aid of a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., a federal agency 1976.38
"Untitled," 1979 charcoal, by Joel Shapiro, American, born 1941. Museum Purchase, George Otis Hamlin Fund
"Quotation from Chairman Mao," 2001, Chinese ink, by Xu Bing Chinese, born 1955. Museum Purchase, with a grant from the Freeman Foundation Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative
"Tango for Page Turning," 2013, Single channel HD video; 2 minutes, 48 seconds by William Kentridge, South African, born 1955. Purchased by the New Media Arts Consortium, a collaboration of the art museums at Bowdoin College (Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund), Brandeis University, Colby College, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, and Skidmore College 2016.12


This exhibition surveys the Museum’s distinguished collections of drawings, which was founded by James Bowdoin with a bequest in 1811 and is widely regarded as the first in the country. This overview features rarely seen works by artists from Carlo Maratti and Peter Paul Rubens to Winslow Homer, Ed Ruscha, Eva Hesse, and Natalie Frank. Throughout the last 500 years, artists found ingenious ways to capture their observations, visualize information, and work through pictorial ideas. They drew to learn, to teach, and to communicate with workshops, colleagues, and collectors. The intimacy of drawing makes it an absorbing field of study for anyone interested in human imagination and creativity.


Please enjoy the following coverage of the exhibition

The Boston Globe

Maine Sunday Telegram I

Maine Sunday Telegram II

New York Arts

Multimedia Resources

Watch artist Natalie Frank's lecture, delivered on May 2, 2017 at Bowdoin College.  Frank's lecture opened the exhibition, Why Draw?