Drawing in silver and gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
Explore the development of the artistic technique of metalpoint from the Renaissance to the present, and discover how the technical challenge of the medium has inspired generations of artists.
This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see around 100 exceptional drawings created using the exquisite metalpoint technique. It features works by some of the greatest artists working from the late 14th century to the present including Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Elder, Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Otto Dix, Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman. Works drawn from the British Museum’s superb collection of metalpoint drawings sit alongside major loans from European and American museums as well as private collections, including four sheets by Leonardo da Vinci from the Royal Collection.
Metalpoint is a drawing technique where the artist uses a metal stylus, usually made of silver, on an abrasive preparation so that traces of the metal are left on the surface, resulting in a visible drawing. The fine point allows for precise lines so that stunningly detailed drawings can be achieved. Metalpoint lines cannot be easily erased and the artist needs to carefully plan the design or run the risk of having to start all over again. In the hands of the greatest artists metalpoint could also be used more freely for creating rapid sketches.
The exhibition is the first to explore the development of metalpoint through six centuries and showcases the great variety of artistic styles it has encompassed. During the Renaissance metalpoint became popular both north and south of the Alps before cheaper graphite replaced it from around 1550. In northern Europe metalpoint continued to be used in preparation for prints or in travel sketchbooks. From the late 17th century the technique was virtually forgotten until the 19th century when the admiration for Renaissance art sparked its renewed use. The exploration of the medium continues to this day, both in Europe and the USA.
Such a glittering array of metalpoint drawings by the greatest masters of this technique has never been assembled before, and this exhibition presents a unique opportunity to view such a large collection of masterpieces using this intriguing technique.
Organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the British Museum.
Image: © Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), A bust of a warrior in profile to left. Silverpoint, on prepared paper, 1475–1480.