Musée d'Orsay: Archives of the Dream, drawings from the Musée d'Orsay: carte blanche for Werner Spies

Archives of the Dream, drawings from the Musée d'Orsay: carte blanche for Werner Spies


Léon SpilliaertDigue la nuit. Reflets de lumière© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The Musée d'Orsay boasts a collection of around 80,000 drawings, which includes 19,000 drawings relating to the decorative arts and to architecture, and over 700 pastels. The drawings are rarely exhibited because of their sensitivity to light. The majority are kept in the graphic arts department of the Louvre, organised by size and by school alongside works from previous centuries.
They can be consulted by the public in a silent reading room located in the reserve collections, and constitute meticulously classified archives whose secrets will surely never be fully revealed.

But these still vibrant works have escaped becoming historical documents and have entered the realm of dreams. As the common origin of all other arts, drawing is the nearest to the creative act: the artist’s expression is not yet fixed. The alterations, reworking, deletions, variations and variants that we see on the sheets of studies and sketchbooks are all traces of the act of creation itself.
Alongside the thousands of preparatory pages, there are “fine drawings” that are finished works in themselves. Whether a sketch or a finished work, the drawing always retains the personal touch of the hand that sketched it and coloured it. Requiring only the simplest tools and support, the drawing is the ideal medium for artistic licence and graphic experimentation. With self-portraits alongside sketches of daily life and fragments of the world, and fantastic, dream-like visions, it is the artist’s private journal.

This selection of around 200 drawings is not intended to be representative of the collection, too complex a task for one exhibition. Rather, it develops the oxymoron and paradox of the "archives of the dream" through the unusual and challenging approach of Werner Spies who was a friend of the most talented artists of the 20th century in this medium, Ernst and Picasso.



Werner Spies, art historian, former director of the Musée National Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou
Leïla Jarbouai, curator of drawings, Musée d'Orsay

Exhibition catalogue supported by LVMH / Moët Hennessy. Louis Vuitton and the American Friends Musée d'Orsay

With the support of Tollens for their paint contribution

26 March - 30 June 2014

Paris, Musée National de l'Orangerie

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Print