The practice of classically based Western painting was predicated on the preparatory drawing, which provided a way to plan and envision the completed work, to be painted in the artist’s studio over an extended period of time with layer upon layer of oil paint. With the advent of plein air painting in the early 19th century, drawing was no longer considered prerequisite to the making of a painting as landscapes and other subjects painted quickly in the field and with a single layer of paint brought a breath of fresh air to the practice of painting. This change, in combination with other factors, led directly to the impressionist style.
However, the impressionists and post-impressionists continued to draw. This is perhaps most dramatically evident in Degas’ pastels, which are nothing more or less than colored drawings, and are arguably his definitive works. This exhibition is about the further continuance of drawing in the 20th century through to the present day in the context of modern and contemporary art. These genres have been stereotypically considered anti-classical, i.e. “avant-garde,” a term one 20th century French artist said should be confined to references specific to the French military, owing to the misunderstandings that have arisen from the use of this term which has been taken to mean that modern and contemporary art are disconnected from the art that came before them.
To the contrary, drawing has been relevant for some 30,000 years dating back to the caves at Lascaux, most likely always will be relevant (new media notwithstanding), and may be the best measure of an artist’s ability as it clearly reveals the extent of an artist’s capacity to create line and form, and express the subtle nuances thereof. In point of fact, each work in this exhibition is evidence that classical values have survived in the practice of modern and contemporary drawing.