Five drawing shows

Published 4 November 2015

From mathematically precise patterns to magic in metalpoint, five shows exploring the incredible craft of drawing practice.

1. Titian to Canaletto: Drawing in Venice, Ashmolean Museum

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The Venetian school of art is primarily thought of in terms of painting; in fact, drawing practice from this period has barely been acknowledged at all. Yet now – thanks to enlightening new research – there is every reason to believe that it was an integral part of artistic life in the city between 1500 and 1750. This exhibition brings together more than 100 drawings produced at the hands of great Venetian masters Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and Canaletto, revealing the motivations that inspired them to take to pencil and paper (until 10 January 2016).

2. The Amazing World of MC Escher, Dulwich Picture Gallery

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MC Escher was set to become an architect, had one of his teachers not noticed his incredible skill as a draughtsman and insisted he switch to the graphic-arts department. Escher turned his attention to creating optical puzzles: never-ending staircases, ladders leading nowhere and upward-flowing water, all executed with the mathematical precision that obsessed him. Despite his popularity among the public, Escher was never fully embraced by the art world, making this the first UK retrospective devoted to his work (until 17 January 2016).

3. Brothers in Art: Drawings by Watts and Leighton, Watts Gallery

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Friends and neighbours for more than 40 years, Watts declared ‘unbounded admiration’ for Leighton, while in return Leighton said Watts was ‘a marvellous fellow’ who, had he been in better health, ‘would whip us all, if he doesn’t already’. Taking drawings specifically as the focus – the skill they most admired in each other – this exhibition brings together works from the two single-artist collections at Watts Gallery and Leighton House for display in parallel. It reveals not only the similarities in the size, subject and scope of their work, but also illuminates the key differences in their approaches to the medium (17 November until 19 February 2016).

4. Ronald Searle: Obsessed with Drawing, Fitzwilliam Museum

Free to all

The illustrator known for creating the St Trinian's series is the focus of this exhibition in Cambridge. While his first sketches of the fictional girls' school were published in 1941, his career took a dramatic turn when he was captured and imprisoned by Japanese forces during the war. After enduring four years of beatings, starvation and torture, he returned to the UK to continue his work, but his art now had a much darker tone: the girls now drank, gambled and smoked, took part in violent team sports and murdered each other with pitchforks. These illustrations are joined by artwork he produced for other books, magazines, travelogues, film credits, medal designs and political caricature (until 31 January 2016).

5. Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns, British Museum

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More than 100 examples spanning from the 15th century to the present day – including portraits, free sketches and botanical and topographical studies – are used to explore the demands and capabilities of metalpoint practice. Among the artists featured are Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Dürer, Rembrandt, Bruce Nauman and Jasper Johns, who are shown to employ this technically-challenging method to produce works of crystalline clarity and refinement (until 6 December).

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