Monday, June 4, 2018

The MAGIC OF HANDWRITING at the Morgan: Review by Polly Guerin

Peering into the intimate lives of the great artists, poets and historical figures is the focus of the new exhibition THE MAGIC OF HANDWRITING, but this exhibit is not about handwriting itself. It is about the "magic" that one finds in handwritten correspondence that intimately connects us back to the everyday life with the people who marked the page.
      Left: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The concluding portion of an autograph, letter signed to his father, Leopold Mozart, (Mannheim) 7 February 1778 in which the-two-year-old composer ventures to make his own decisions regarding his musical career rather than following his father's strict instructions.   Collection of Pedro Correa do Lago. 
      Culled from Brazilian author, the Pedro do Lago's collection, 140 items are on display with letters and manuscripts in the hands of such other luminaries as Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges and others.  Musical compositions and inscribed photographs and documents included, some never been publicly are mesmerizing insights into private lives of historical figures.
THE YOUNG COLLECTOR At the age of eleven, Pedro Correa do Lago began writing to individuals he admired. The English novelist, R.R.R Tolkien, Lord of the Rings fame, may have declined to send him anything, but scores of others did. Mr. Correo do Lago shares the passion of the Morgan's founder, John Pierpont Morgan, for collecting letters and manuscripts that bear the handwriting of some of the most influential figures in Western history and culture. 
        "From the time I was very young I have derived enormous pleasure from collecting autographs, which serve as tangible link that defy the passage of time," said Mr. Correa do Lago. "I am thrilled to be able to share of the manuscripts and letters that have brought me such joy and to do so within the library of one of the greatest American autograph collectors."
HISTORY:  Early letters document the personal and political relationships of Western Europe's monarchs and scions. Twentieth-century historical letter bring to life moments and relationships of great drama. In 1917, Dutch-born dancer known as Mata Hari writes a desperate plea from prison after being arrest on charges of espionage in 1947.  Tender moments inscribed in letters share the intimacy of love. At the age of eighty, his handwriting shaky after a recent stroke, Winston Churchill sends a letter to Pamela, Lady Lytton, his first
great love saying, "I am getting older now the trappings of power and responsibility have fallen away, and I totter along in the shades of retirement.ART: The items on view span more than four centuries and include examples of the handwriting of some of the leading artists in modern Western history including Benvenuto Cellini, J M W Turner, Monet, Henri Matisse and Frida Kahlo. The earliest work on view in this section is a small, hitherto unpublished block drawing with notes by Michelangelo, dated ca 1518. More than four hundred years later, in 1949, Henri Matisse wrote a note to his friend Albert Skira, the Swiss art publisher, filling more than half the page with a crayon sketch, thus turning
a personal letter into an intimate work of art.
       Image: Henri Matisse (1860-1954). Autograph note signed with initials, to Albert Skira 16 February, 1949. Collection of Pedro Correa do Lago (c) 2018 Succession
H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
MUSIC and PERFORMING ARTS; On view is an extremely messy
draft page for The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanculla del West), which reveals the energy and frenzy in which Giacomo Puccini composed. Then, too, there are examples of the handwriting of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig von Beethoven to a signed sketch of the dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky by Jean Cocteau.  
Finally inscribed photographs of some of the greatest entertainers of the twentieth-century include entertainers Billie Holiday, the Marx Brothers, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and even the Beatles. Their handwriting and signatures serve as reminders of their unique personalities. 
       Image: Signed photograph of Josephine Baker (1905-1975) inscribed to Mille Le"Dunf," Paris, 1930; Photograph by R. Sobol. Collection of Pedro Correa do Lago.
LITERATURE Extraordinary personal communications in the show include one of only tow know surviving letters from Oscar Wilde, author of Dorian Gray to Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and extremely complimentary letter from Gustave Flaubert to Victor Hugo, and a charming letter from twelve-year-old Ernest Hemingway asking his father if they might go see the Chicago Cubs play that weekend (it will be a dandy game"). 
Emily Dickinson writes "To be remembered is next to being loved, and to be loved is Heaven, and is this quite Earth? I have never found it so." HER LETTER IS A REMINDER THAT HANDWRITTEN LETTERS PROVIDE A POWERFUL MEANS OF REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE LIVING AND DEAD.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!   If you love history as I do, scanning the private writings of the world's most famous people, is worthy of a visit to the Morgan.  I adore receiving fan mail, please respond to and visit Polly's other Blogs on 

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