Tuesday 21 August 2012

Master Drawings from Mantegna to Matisse

This exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery is entering it's last couple of weeks, finishing on the 9th of September. At first glance the exhibition seems small and unassuming. This first impression is fleeting. In fact, the two rooms with their collection of approximately 60 drawings from the Courtauld's prestigious collection pack a considerable punch. The exhibition guides us through some of the most famous names in art history; Michelangelo, Pinturicchio, Seurat, Manet, Rembrandt, Matisse, Van Gogh, Ingres, the list goes on. 

The scale of the exhibition space and the undeservedly limited attendance does allow those of us that have visited this delightful exhibition to do what you must do with drawings... get up close and personal with them. There is no such thing as standing too close to a drawing, the nearer you get the more you will be able to appreciate the intricacies of linear work on paper. The guards on duty are relaxed enough to allow this close inspection, (within reason!!).

The exhibition also dispels the notion that drawing is merely a stage that comes before painting. Although some works in the exhibition are preliminary studies for well known paintings many can not be linked to a surviving art work and perhaps never work. They are experiments in which artists push the boundaries of their talents and explored the work of other artists and studies from nature and life.

For me I think the highlight of the exhibition was viewing Seurat's nude in the second room. 

I have always been skeptical about this artist and his highly technical methods based upon early 20th century scientific theories. However this drawing, one of only a few in existence, jumps off the Courtauld wall. It has necessitated my revisiting of this artist, who died at the age of just 31, which is what any good exhibition should do. During this revisit I came across an interesting examination of his works on paper which took place at MoMA in 2008: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/seurat/

Every drawing in the exhibition allows the viewer a new insight into the artists works, this is merely the one that stuck me most. So for the small price of £6, (which allows you access to the galleries breathtaking permanent collection as well) get down there and start exploring to find your favourite!

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