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Drawn in by Lines: Examining Old Master Works on Paper in the Horning Collection April 7, 2017

By Claire Spadafora
Tags: prints-and-drawings, works-on-paper, google-art-project, online-exhibition, rembrandt-van-rijn, albrecht-durer

Art collectors Marjorie and Evan Horning gifted many fine works to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, over the years, as public access to Old Master and modern prints was a major consideration for them. Inspired by that desire, I helped put together A Renaissance Couple: Stories from the Collection of Drs. Marjorie and Evan Horningan online exhibition, hosted on the Google Art Project, that highlights especially significant objects from the Horning Collection. The exhibition explores major themes found among these artworks, most notably the ways in which prints tell stories.

A Rich Program of Contributions
When I chatted with Marjorie in her sunlit apartment overlooking Hermann Park last summer, she was carefully reviewing a copy of Albrecht Dürer’s engraving of Christ in Limbo, which she gave the MFAH in 1975. “When you look at it, you just wonder how the artist had the ability—because this was not too large of a print—to get all the details in, and to be so attractive. I just can’t comprehend being able to do that,” she said as her eyes fell on the print’s intricate engraved lines.

At one time, Christ in Limbo resided in the home that she shared with her late husband, Evan. The print’s arrival at the Museum ushered in a rich program of contributions from the Hornings to the MFAH over the course of four decades. Along with Virginia and Ira Jackson, the Hornings cofounded the department of prints and drawings in 1991. They also set up a print fund in 1987, something Evan felt was important “since acquiring early prints and some relatively recent prints by major artists for both study and intermittent display is becoming more difficult.”*

Their First Print: A Rembrandt
Another work featured in the online exhibition is an early gift that the Hornings made to the Museum: Rembrandt’s The Hog, the first print they ever collected. In the 1950s, they purchased The Hog in London while on sabbatical from their jobs as research scientists. Quickly infected with what Marjorie called “the disease” of collecting, the Hornings would build, over five decades, what would become an essential part of the Museum’s collection of early modern prints.

Reaching the World Online
Marjorie said that to her, learning about and collecting Old Master prints was a fascinating activity that “open[ed] up a whole new world of interest.”† Now with the online exhibition, their collection can reach beyond its home and the Museum’s walls onto screens anywhere—further extending the chance for viewers to be drawn in by lines.

*“The Marjorie G. and Evan C. Horning Print Fund Is Established,” MFAH members publication, 1988.
† Interview with Dr. Marjorie Horning. August 29, 2016, Houston.