Hidden away behind the Assemblée Nationale in Paris is a little known art foundation that keeps an extraordinary collection of historical old master drawings. Located in the Hôtel Turgot, the Fondation Custodia was established by the renowned Dutch connoisseur and collector Frits Lugt back in 1947. As one of the most famous authorities on old master works, Lugt was a selfless and tireless compiler of essential reference tools documenting Dutch, French, Italian, and German drawings, dating from the 15th to the late 18th centuries which included collectors’ stamps and sale catalogues. In particular however, his specialty was Rembrandt, whom Lught collected all of the known etchings made by Rembrandt during his career.
Since founding the Fondation in 1947, the collection has grown to include 7,000 Old Master drawings, 30,000 prints, and 220 paintings. With the roster of artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, and of course Rembrandt to name but a few. What makes the collection even more unique however is that it also includes over 40,000 artists’ letters including items penned by Dürer, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Henri Matisse, among others.
This is why the Fondation is a study collection, but they are hoping to broaden the appeal of viewing their collection by letting it be known that anyone is allowed to visit. As the current Director Ger Luijten states, “We are open to everybody, no matter their level of expertise. Our ambition is to become Paris’s ‘house of drawing’.” And it is with those sentiments in mind, that they began hosting temporary exhibitions last year that are open to the public in a separate area of the building. In addition they are seeking to improve their collection with the addition of more contemporary drawings so they can represent a broader range of the art world, with their final hope to become the ultimate destination for drawing lovers in Paris.
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