January 20 - March 3, 2023
January 20 - March 3, 2023
"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."
- Henri Matisse
“What is the root word of drawing?
Etymology: From Middle English drawen, draȝen, dragen (“to drag, pull, push, draw (out), go to, make, add, etc.”)
From Old English dragan,
From Proto-West Germanic *dragan, from Proto-Germanic *draganą, from Proto-IndoEuropean *dʰregʰ- (“to draw, pull”).”
The word drawing is used to describe artworks made with various media such as pencil, chalk, or charcoal, done on a support usually understood to be paper. At this very particular moment in time, when computer generated art works are set to challenge the very definition and use of art and of drawing, we thought it would be important to revisit this most basic art form, as used by the most important artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875), almost an exact contemporary of Delacroix, was a sculptor and painter known for his close observation of wild animals such as tigers, elephants, and large snakes. Likewise a prolific draughtsman, Barye made tracings of his own drawings in order to imagine new compositions for other works.
This Reclining Tiger is one of the best examples of the how the artist merged abstraction and representation to show us the tiger rather than literally describing it. The sinuous line forecasts the work of later artists such as Matisse, who was also a sculptor.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) was the leader of the French Romantic school of painting, and a prolific and creative draughtsman. One of the few artists who knew no limits to the subject matter of his work, he was a constant draughtsman in pencil, watercolor, and charcoal. He used drawing as a method of observation and as a memory tool in preserving images to create later painted compositions.
Delacroix’s Dancer dates specifically to his trip as a diplomatic envoy to Morocco in January 1832. It was done from life and depicts a young Jewish dancer in full costume, with her veils and scarfs fluttering around her. It is a page from one of a handful of rare sketchbooks Delacroix made on the trip where, denied by local protocol to view or depict Arab women, he used Jewish women instead as his models. He even attended a Jewish wedding which would become the subject for one of his most important masterworks, the 1839 Noce juive dans le Maroc, in the collection of the Louvre. Our drawing is a study for the dancer at the center left of the painting.
Horses were a popular subject matter for French Romantic artists and many of Delacroix’s most quintessentially Romantic works depict galloping or rearing horses in the heat of battle. “I really must devote myself to rendering horses. I shall go to one stable or another every morning.” Delacroix closely studied their forms, both moving and standing still, as seen in the spontaneous pencil sketch. The pencil is used more freely than in the Moroccan sheet, although both drawings were done from life, and later used as inspiration for other more finished compositions.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was also a prolific draughtsman who by 1940 was using a sinuous and elastic line to depict subject matter. Often drawing with india ink, Matisse’s technique eliminated all non-essential detail, so that the viewer could focus on the figure in space.
Often drawing with india ink, Matisse’s technique eliminated all non-essential detail, so that the viewer could focus on the figure in space. This act of the extreme simplification of form culminated in the late paper cut-outs which were done in the years directly after our drawing.
Here are two short videos of Matisse and Picasso drawing.
J-B-C Corot’s (1796-1875) large late charcoal drawing illustrates the evolution of the artist’s stylistic journey.
Early drawings by the artist were typically done with a fine pencil, relying on line to describe subject matter. As his career developed, Corot’s line softened and began to blur, paralleling what occurred in his painted works. The late drawings become tonalist expressions or abstract renditions of the original subject matter, although, as though to retain a narrative element, Corot often placed, as he did here, a lone traveler in the composition, traversing the landscape perhaps as a symbolic representation of the artist who often walked many miles before planting his easel.