The Morgan Library & Museum announced yesterday that it will begin the digitization of its collection of master drawings, considered to be one of the greatest in the world. Upon completion, the Morgan will host a digital library of more than 10,000 images, representing drawings spanning the fourteenth to twenty-first centuries. All of the images will be available free of charge on the Morgan’s website (www.themorgan.org).
The project will begin in October 2013 and is expected to be completed within one year, contributing significantly to the Morgan’s commitment to advancing drawings scholarship.
The images will be accessible in two formats: one for general identification and another for detailed study with enhanced resolution. Scholarly information about each drawing will be linked to a corresponding Morgan catalogue record.
The project will also include approximately 2,000 images of versos (reverse sides) of drawings that contain rarely seen sketches or inscriptions by the artist. The digital library will be available on an open-access basis, and can be downloaded for non-commercial uses such as classroom presentations, dissertations, and educational websites devoted to the fine arts.
“The Morgan’s drawing collection is indisputably one of the finest in the world, however, images of only a small part of our holdings have been available in digital form,” said William M. Griswold, director of the museum. “This project will provide access to the full range of the collection and is critical to our institutional goal of promoting drawings scholarship and reaching out to an ever larger audience.”
Future plans for the project involve digitization of the department’s print collection, including its celebrated group of Rembrandt prints, as well as artists’ sketchbooks, and expanded scholarly catalogue records.
For nearly a century the Morgan has played a leading role in the collecting, scholarship, and exhibition of master drawings. Now recognized as one of the world's greatest treasuries of seminal artistic, literary, musical, and historical works, The Morgan Library & Museum began in the 1890s as the private collection of the legendary American financier Pierpont Morgan. "No price," he was once reported to have said, "is too high for an object of unquestioned beauty and known authenticity."
In 1924 J. P. Morgan, Jr. gave his father's extraordinary library to the public. The core of the Morgan Library and Museum's holdings come from Pierpont Morgan's collection of art objects in every medium, including rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and ancient artifacts.
All the major European schools are represented in the collection, with particular strengths in the field of Italian drawings, including works by Raphael and Michelangelo, Annibale Carracci, and Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo; French drawings, especially of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; British drawings, with an exceptional concentration of works by William Blake; and Dutch, Flemish, and German drawings.
The collection also includes a growing number of modern and contemporary works on paper as well as drawings by American artists. The Morgan’s collection is thus unusual in that it represents, in increasing depth, continuity as well as innovation throughout the entire history of drawing.