Lockbuster shows are all great, but there is more to small shows: more attention, more opportunity for close scrutiny. The quiet space of the drawing room in the Cortold Gallery is great for its purpose: the presentation of drawings, especially from the wide collection of galleries. There are only 16 works, mostly out of his 250 Flemish works – these were 300 until a Belgian curator, Martin Bassins, cut off imports from other countries – with special attention to their print and anchorage. In relation to
The printing industry was centered in Antwerp, home to some of Europe’s most skilled practitioners. Thus the title, the marks. The technique by which a drawing is transferred to copper is shown in two interesting videos here, and it actually leaves outline marks on the wax coating on the metal plate, which is then teased for printing. And the drawings that are cut show the blade marks and often the grid marks which are later used to move the drawing up or down.
The markings may suggest modern materials, but the sixteen pieces here are from the sixteenth century. Here are some drawings for print. One is a drawing that was once attributed to Bruegel but is actually copied from one of its prints. There is a design for a tapestry; There is a drawing by an artist known as a print maker. To compare and contrast, we look at the print images associated with a drawing here. And the comparison he made to me confirmed how strongly I preferred drawing.
Of course, prints were a great way to spread the word, and they played a vital role in popularizing the work of artists during the Renaissance and beyond, but in their nature, print sketches were vague and unambiguous. Are shaken, which are made by digging in copper. A burn, or anching needle, as opposed to the delicacy and delicacy of drawing.
Drawings for print are often unambiguous. It’s all about the line. So here we find a fascinating drawing by Martin de Vos of the Atlanta and Hippopotamus race in pen and ink (the one where Atlanta is disturbed by her plaintiff’s dropped golden apple – deception!) Which is all lightness. And there is movement. A print made of it that looks heavy in terms of competition. The same is true of another beautiful drawing of the destruction of the temple by de Vos, which is delicately out of curiosity for its horrible subject. The print version is heavy and black.
However, the special focus of this show makes some interesting choices. At the beginning we find an engraving of the Cornelius Court of the Practice of the Visual Arts which shows how drawing underlines all the visual arts, from sculpture to architecture and yes, printmaking. It provides terrifying insights into the flying of the body and the suspension of the skeleton for the benefit of artists studying anatomy.
But Crop Cream is a fair in Hoboken by Brigel the Elder, a pen and ink drawing of St. Day’s Day festivities in a village outside Antwerp, full of events. Horses and piglets are running, a man is defecating outside the church, a homemade theater, church procession, children are aiming hard boiled eggs or something, archers, dancers; All the excitement of a village and the joy of all the peasants with whom Brugel had warm sympathy. What kind of jigs will it make? The accompanying print has the advantage of clarifying the details you may have missed – gauze packing, small archery target.
After all, it’s an admirable focused exhibition that seeks to illuminate the relationship between the two media, drawings and prints, and enables us to see both more closely.
Cortald Gallery, September 22; courtauld.ac.uk