Colchester Decorative & Fine Arts Society
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16 January 2017Drawing: Masters & Methods
18 January 2016A La Mode in Town and Country: the Georgian House and its Interior
12 January 2015The Annual Study Course

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Drawing: Masters & Methods
Dr Susan Owens
Monday 16 January 2017

This study course will take place on two consecutive Monday afternoons from 1.30pm until 4.00pm including an interval for tea and cake. The total cost of the complete series of lectures is £35.  The booking form is available here.

Venue: Marks Tey Parish Hall, Old London Road, Marks Tey, Colchester CO6 1EN. There is plenty of car-parking space available.

Drawing is central to the way artists work and think. This study course focuses on how and why artists draw, using examples ranging from Renaissance Italy to today’s England. It promises to look in detail at materials and techniques as it considers drawing’s vital role in artistic creation.

Day One

1) Art Education 

For centuries drawing and learning have been closely connected. As a means of coordinating the mind and hand, and teaching habits of observation, the practice of drawing has since at least the 16th century been considered essential in preparing the aspiring artist for a career as a painter or sculptor. So far so good: but what exactly were students supposed to draw? And did it matter how they drew? This lecture looks at the very different ways drawing has been taught in art academies, both in Britain and on the continent, beginning with the earliest Italian schools where the focus was on drawing from the life model. It also reveals how artists such as William Hogarth and William Blake disagreed fundamentally with their tutors’ methods and rebelled. 

2) Master Drawings Close Up

What is a silverpoint drawing? How can you tell the difference between the marks made by a quill pen and a steel nib? When did artists start drawing with graphite? This lecture focuses on drawing media, and looks at works on paper by the greatest of the old masters, including Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt. Drawings show us the work in progress: an artist’s inspiration, the ideas forming and taking shape – even the false starts, offering insights into the creative process itself. This lecture takes you behind the scenes by looking at examples of master drawings in detail and exploring the reasons why these artists chose particular materials and techniques, from the extreme delicacy of silverpoint to the crude vigour of a reed pen.

Day Two

1) Drawing in England

In early 17th century England, drawing was barely given a thought: drawings were considered to be nothing more than ‘rude drafts’. But by the end of the century collectors had come to regard them as precious works of art, and for artists themselves the practice of drawing was considered to be essential. Telling the fascinating story of the development of drawing in England, this lecture explores the many ways in which artists have used drawing media, whether to capture fleeting inspiration or to make fully-fledged exhibition pieces. It will look at the inventive ways in which artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, William Blake, Aubrey Beardsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lucian Freud have used graphite, chalk and ink, and conclude with a look at some innovative contemporary drawings. 

2) Artists as Printmakers  

Many artists have drawn their own designs onto copper plates, woodblocks and lithographic stones to create different expressive and formal effects. This lecture demystifies the idea of the ‘original print’, and offers clear explanations of the processes involved in each printmaking technique. It unfolds stories of artists’ great skill in creating printed images, such as Albrecht Dürer’s astonishing Apocalypse woodcuts, and stories of experimentation, such as William Blake’s wood-engraved illustrations to Virgil – which looked so unconventional they were nearly rejected by his publisher. Etching was the most important artists’ medium because it allowed the artist to draw freely onto the copper plate, and this lecture will look at fascinating and beautiful examples by Rembrandt, Whistler, Picasso and Freud.

 Dr Susan Owens is a writer and freelance curator who has published and lectured extensively on drawings. She was formerly Curator of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she wrote The Art of Drawing: British Masters and Methods since 1600 (V&A, 2013) and curated numerous displays of drawings. Before joining the V&A she was a curator in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. She recently organised an exhibition of self-portrait drawings at the Courtauld Gallery.

Illustration: Edward Francis Burney, The Antique School at New Somerset House, pen and ink with watercolour, c.1780, Royal Academy of Arts