Study visit: Drawing at the British Museum

Study visit: Drawing at the British Museum

On the 1st of May, I attended the study visit Drawing at the British Museum, tutored by Michelle Charles.
It was my first study visit and I was a little nervous to meet other students and a tutor, but it was actually really nice and very useful.
We met up in the Museum hall, gave a brief introduction of ourselves and then we went up to the fourth floor, were the drawings and prints study room is located.
After living all our stuff in the lockers, we signed on a register and two very kind curators let us in. As I stepped into the big room, I felt like I was in a holy place. There were only few people other than us and there was a pleasant silence. The curators gave us sketchbook and pencils while introducing the works they prepared for us on a table. They were 15 drawings, from various eras and artist between Renaissance to 1993. They let us have a close look at the drawings so I went around the table exploring them. They were all preparatory drawings, so it was pretty interesting to not just admire them, but to have a close look at the mistakes, changes of mind and the study that is behind a great work of art.
It was comforting to see with my own eyes that the process behind a divine result is really just human.
After observing the artworks, we briefly discussed which of them attracted us the most and then we had the chance to sketch the most significant details.
I was strongly attracted by a Raphael study of a male figure which was surrounded by three different poses of the hands. After sketching for a while we discovered there was another study on the back of the page.

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I was so immersed in sketching Raphael that I couldn’t take any other little sketch, but I kept my ears opened to what the curators were explaining to other students. It was very interesting to learn that a Rembrandt ink drawing was actually done by someone else as a mock up for him and it carried the signs, in dark oil paint, of the corrections of the artist. Another interesting fact was the obsession of Albrecht Dürer about the ownership of his works. They explained us he signed every single sketch because he was really afraid that someone would have copied his works and this attitude was probably amplified by his family being in the goldsmiths craft.
It was an amazing experience. I never tried before to draw from someone’s drawing, but it was really useful to explore the process of a master. I thought rather than copying, it was good to learn from them.
It was also very good and useful to know that the drawing and printing room is accessible for private studies and that they have a fully searchable on-line catalogue!

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