Friday, 21 December 2012

Raphael Drawings at the British Museum

Photo: BM
I've been inspired by the Raphael drawing exhibitions in Haarlem and Frankfurt (and seeing the outstanding drawing sold at Sotheby's), so I took a couple of days off work to look at the British Museum's amazing collection of Raphael drawings.  It was my first really sustained and focused study of drawings, and I'd prepared by reading as much of the vast literature on Raphael as draftsman that I could find.  But reading and looking at reproductions is truly no substitute for the real thing, and it was striking how quickly I learnt to discern differences in quality and to appreciate Raphael's artistic development.  I deliberately selected drawings by Raphael's students as well as attested originals so that I could make comparisons.  As I'd already seen in the Frankfurt exhibition, the students' work looks relatively better in reproduction.

The drawing above is from the Pink Sketchbook, in silverpoint on prepared paper.  No reproduction captures the astonishing subtlety of the original. 

Now I'm on a mission to see as much of Raphael's graphic work as I can.  Tomorrow I head to the Ashmolean, and I've got an appointment at the Louvre in January. 

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