- •Contact us
- •About us
- •Advertise with the FT
- •Terms & conditions
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
September 16, 2012 8:34 pm
Did Spanish drawing exist before Goya? Velázquez left almost no drawings, El Greco only a few. For centuries, it was assumed that, as Prado director Francisco Sánchez Cantón summed up in the 1960s, “the Spanish artistic temperament was undoubtedly given more to the magic of colour than to the discipline of drawing, so that artists drew on canvas with brush and paint without previous attempts on paper”.
This view has been challenged only recently – shows of Spanish drawing at the Frick and at the Courtauld last year, and now at the British Museum, result from reappraisals of overlooked collections and new scholarship demonstrating that Spanish drawing since the Renaissance was widespread and diverse, its range and quality obscured by a paucity of connoisseurs, and by 19th-century dispersal of church collections.
Of the British Museum’s outstanding collection, a few works – Zurbarán’s brooding depiction of a hooded monk, Goya’s red chalk portrait of an exhausted Duke of Wellington, as well as his celebrated etchings “The Sleep of Reason” and “Disasters of War” – are well known but many drawings here are exhibited for the first time, forming a new narrative of pre-18th-century Spanish graphic art and its changing foreign influences.
It starts in the 1500s as Spanish artists began to be receptive to Italian models – the sculptural “Assumption of the Virgin” by Alonso Berruguete, who fell under the spell of Masaccio and Michelangelo. Then it goes regional, with interpretations of the baroque in Madrid (Antonio de Pereda y Salgado’s towering, Rubens-like red chalk composition “Saint Ildephonsus Receiving the Chasuble from the Virgin Mary”), Granada, Seville, led by Murillo and Zurbarán, and Spanish Naples, where the sensually expressive José de Ribera made his career. The exhibition questions whether there is a distinctive Spanish manner – or national characteristics in drawing generally.
From Thursday to January 6, www.britishmuseum.org
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.