UnderCover: Artists’ Sketchbooks – An Online Exhibition


UnderCover: Artists’ Sketchbooks, a fascinating online exhibition assembled by the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, presents a rare up-close and personal glimpse of the artist at work. The exhibition, revolutionary in its online format, focuses on 10 sketchbooks belonging to some of the great artists of the 18th-20th centuries, including John Singer Sargent, Edward Burne-Jones, Jacques-Louis David, George Grosz and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Although fully intact sketchbooks are uncommon, the museum has reconstructed and repaginated several books that had previously been dismantled. A combination of roughly articulated sketches and meticulously detailed studies, highlights include Sargent’s beautiful figure studies for the Boston Public Library mural and David’s careful and exacting preparation for his masterpiece, “The Coronation of Napoleon I”, from 1805-1806. The exhibition also includes one of only two known existing sketchbooks by Fragonard.

Every page, both front and back, has been reproduced for the online exhibition and the images can be seen all together or sequentially. The online format works beautifully, allowing for simple and universal access to intriguing and intensely personal drawings and notes – a visit to the site reveals insight into the preoccupations and inspirational vision of each artist.

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