I visited this exhibition last week and found it the perfect means to start to consider the ‘continuing importance of drawing’ for the beginning of this course. It is quite a small exhibition but the works of such note that it took a long time to view them all. It includes work by Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Turner, and Rembrandt to mention just a few. I was able to scrutinise each work closely trying to take in the nature of each one in terms of the marks made and the materials used, often in combination.
The 2 portraits I think because they have both managed to capture something that still seems quite elusive to me, and are different in some ways. The Michelangelo drawing may be an idealized head but the features seem so well observed and the modelling through tone in the face create a beautiful face; it has a presence about it that makes you want to look at it for a long time. Being able to view the work so closely also emphasised the subtlety in his mark making.
I also found myself dwelling on the Rembrandt portrait that is possibly of his father. The marks around the head and face are drawn in such a way as to give a feeling of intimacy; you get a feeling that this was a face he knew very well. And yet, around the tightness in the face and head, there is a looseness and energy. The dark wash around the figure that helps to give the drawing depth and the marks that are almost scribbles that give form to the body.
Freidrich’s landscape caught my attention because in many ways it was so evocative of the landscape of the Somerset Levels, which is where I am currently considering as a focus for my work during this module. There is a flatness to the land with hills in the distance, and a big sky. I was captivated by the amount of detail the artist has managed to capture in the thin strip of flat land, and what seems like lots of subtle tone differences. It made me think that I rarely observe so closely and that it could be a challenge for me.
The other notable thing about these works was that all of them are relatively small and so the marks that make up these drawing are also small, delicate and intricate. This made me think about the nature of my own drawing, in particular the scale. It is very easy to use the same approach, but it could be interesting to make drawings smaller as well as bigger.
Brown, Christopher (2013) Master Drawings. Oxford; The AshmoleanMuseum.