I felt like a child in sweet shop at this exhibition, it was truly awesome. Drawings by a huge range of incredible artists, taken from the British Museum’s collection. The purpose of the exhibition was to ‘highlight the significant role drawing has played in artistic practice.’
Below are the artworks I found most exciting and a brief description about why.
The above drawing, completed in pen and ink on paper, is a preparatory drawing for Landy’s 2001 performance piece ‘Break Down’. In this piece Landy destroyed all 7,227 of his possessions (he’d given this drawing away prior to the performance). One can see from the drawing what a huge amount of thought went into his performance, in itself a major life event. Here he was testing out theories and working out possibilities for the final piece, proving how essential the drawing process is for an artist.
This piece was drawn in pen and ink, where Hepworth is exploring the possibilities for a future sculpture. There is energy in the drawing, conveying the spirit of her thoughts.
This drawing, completed in black chalk, contains many ideas for Michelangelo’s painting on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. It shows him ‘brainstorming’ from his imagination, where it’s clear he was thinking about the entire composition as well as how he would depict different parts of individual figures. It has amazing energy and was very inspiring to see in the flesh, so to speak.
Here Paolozzi is investigating how different forms would pass through a flat surface/table. It’s interesting that he hasn’t spent much time focussing on making the shapes 3D but seems to be thinking about how they’d fit together.
Here Durer is experimenting with how to depict Adam’s arm in his future engraving. I can imagine him drawing these studies from a life model, changing his pose to achieve the right effect.
In this graphite portrait of a jeweller in his studio, we can see how closely Laroux has studied what she’s drawing. She gives as much attention to the table and the clutter on and around it as she does to the jeweller himself. To me this is important because the clutter is part of the creative process, it’s part of the jeweller and his work.
I don’t even feel like I need to say why this is such an exciting drawing! It was absolutely stunning to see Picasso’s study for this renowned painting up close. This is just one of hundreds of drawings he made in preparation for painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, testing and modifying his ideas over the course of a year. You can see how quickly he’s working to get his ideas on the paper.
This drawing is achieved using the technique known as ‘superautomatism’, which involves drawing at random to reveal images buried in the unconscious. Colquhoun has then consciously filled in and shaded different areas to give three dimensionality to the drawing.
[Apologies for the bad photo with reflections of drawings on opposite wall] The author Victor Hugo produced nearly three thousand drawings, which were often playful experiments. In this drawing he used brush and brown wash, stencilling, pen and brown ink, and touches of white gouache. In other drawings he used coffee dregs and soot. In this drawing Hugo started with a stencil and brushed ink over it, leaving the castle white underneath. He then added details in pen.
Mehretu overlays architectural plans and markings and her own abstract marks and characters, producing an image combining organic and structured visual language. To me it looks a bit like an exploding, busy landscape.
This is a study for an etching of the same name. It’s made up from a collage of many small pieces of paper, correcting previous attempts underneath. The result is that it looks like a highly accomplished complete drawing, but we know how much work ha gone into making it that way. It is completed in pen and black and grey ink, with grey wash over red chalk.
“To draw is to outline an idea. Drawing is the clarification of thought.” Henri Matisse wrote this, and this drawing makes the clarification clear in the many marks that have been smudged away and replaced. That Matisse regarded drawing as of equal merit as his paintings can be understood in this drawing with it’s bold, sculptural forms.
I stopped for a while at this drawing an attempted a quick sketch of it (while my two sons did their own drawings nearby – I think we can be seen in the reflection). This is one of nearly sixty studies Seurat completed for his largest painting. Focusing here on the landscape, later to be populated by more than 50 figures, a great feeling of depth is achieved not just through the arrangement of the composition, but also through his choice of paper and media. Using textured Michallet paper, Seurat uses conte crayon leaving white areas in places, deeply pressed dark areas in others, and lots of gradated tones all over by layering the crayon and allowing some of the white in the textured paper to ‘lift up’ the crayon. I only had pencil and inexpensive untextured paper on which to complete my sketch, below, and found it very difficult to achieve the same depth and contrast in tone.