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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Head of a Man
Date: 1767
Medium: Red chalk
Dimensions: 8 1/4 x 6 3/4 in. (21 x 17.1 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Kops
Object Number: 2001.054
Label Text: Pierre-Alexandre Wille began his career as a precocious teenager, entering Greuze’s workshop at only thirteen years old. Although the present piece was executed at the comparatively mature age of nineteen, Greuze’s tutelage is noticeable in this sensitive red chalk study of an elderly man.

Like his mentor, Wille drafts his portrait with long, vigorous strokes, giving his otherwise placid subject an innate, quiet energy. But this portrait also bears the influence of years of informal study predating academic training. Wille’s father, the engraver Johann Georg Wille, probably owned a group of prints by Dutch Golden Age masters; even before setting foot in Greuze’s workshop, Wille would have “learned” from his Dutch forefathers, especially the example set by Rembrandt van Rijn’s evocative portrayals of elderly subjects. Studies of elderly men and women remained a leitmotif of Wille’s oeuvre. Wille executed several such drawings throughout his career, using the familiar ‘type’ to perfect his draftsmanship and practice depicting emotion. It is fitting, then, that the Johnson Museum holds this drawing by a consummate student of art history, and can use the products of his education to further the knowledge of future art historians. ("FIGURE/STUDY: Drawings from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art," text by Brittany R. R. Rubin and presented at Carlton Hobbs, LLC January 25-February 2, 2019)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.