Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns
10 September – 6 December 2015
Charting the development of metalpoint in Europe over six centuries.
Metalpoint practice formed the cornerstone of drawing education in the 1400s. Using a silver or gold stylus, artists would draw onto a roughened preparation that would ensure traces of the metal were left on the surface. As the line could not be easily erased and the tonal range was limited, it was a very exacting technique. When employed by a skilful hand however, the result was one of crystalline clarity and refinement.
Drawing together over 100 examples spanning from the 15th century to the present day – including portraits, free sketches and botanical and topographical studies – this exhibition explores the technical difficulties of using metalpoint and the many great artists who have risen to the challenge.
Among those featured are Leonardo, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Elder, Rembrandt, Edward Burne-Jones, William Holman Hunt, Bruce Nauman and Jasper Johns. One particular area of interest is how artists north and south of the Alps have been able to use metalpoint to different effect.
Four of Leonardo’s greatest metalpoint studies reveal how he flourished as an artist within this medium. Meanwhile two of only three remaining metalpoint drawings by Rembrandt are also displayed; the works are rarely shown side by side given that they belong to two separate collections.
British Museum Keeper Hugo Chapman discusses the wonders of metalpoint in the autumn issue of Art Quarterly.