What’s in a Sketch?

I am ashamed to say I fall into the category of those who can’t really appreciate a lot of old art – frescos and religious paintings have never really been my bag. Old drawings, however, are another matter all together.┬áThe exhibition of Italian Renaissance Drawings at the British Museum is really something special. The blurb explains that drawing only became popular in the 1400s when paper started to be more widely available. Sketching was seen principally as a way for artists to hone their skills and create studies for larger scale paintings. But, as the exhibition shows, drawings are often more playful, delicate and charismatic than paintings of the same time. Seeing every tiny mark, you get a much better understanding of the skill and study that has gone into them, even the mistakes and corrections are interesting.

For this reason, I think it is easy to feel a stronger connection with them and to really understand how remarkable it is that these delicate, incredibly skillful drawings are staring you right in the face. In 1400, a bloke called Giovannino de’Grassi sat down to draw a cheetah, for instance, and here I am looking at it now. Mind-boggling:

And it isn’t just really old sketches that get me excited – any work from any era where you can see the skill and technique used to create it will usually interest me more than a ‘finished’ perfect painting. For instance, I prefer Degas’ ballerina sketches to his paintings:

Egon Schiele’s sketches, disturbing as they can be, are also very appealing to me:

The wartime artist John Piper’s work often had a sketchlike quality to it that I absolutely love:

So there we have it. A small insight into a beautiful exhibition and a few examples of other sketches I love. Now all I have to do is start doing more of my own sketches. And who knows, maybe someone in the year 3000 will marvel at one of my own doodles…

June 20, 2010. Tags: , , . art, galleries, London, Uncategorized. 1 comment.