Drawings as Research

We were asked to find images of drawings that show the artist is working through an idea, rather than works that would be displayed in a gallery.


Edgar Degas, Danseuse de dos

Degas was an enthusiast of the human body. He is renowned for his graceful dancers. In his sketches you can see how he tries to portray the body accurately. This dancer is graceful. You can see, in the arms, that he has drawn several placements. Maybe this was to depict a sense of movement, or perhaps it was to explore. The lines are roughly sketched, with little evidence of shading or attempting to represent tonal values.


Van Gogh, March – April 1890, pencil drawing

Van Gogh kept a sketchbook, where he would draw subjects that he later represented in his paintings. I love this sketch, as its proportions are not accurate. It is wonky and irregular. It is simple, but there are hints of detail and texture in the seat of the chair. There are shadows from the chair legs, and these bring an element of realism.


Egon Schiele drawing, 1918. Courtesy: Galerie St. Etienne, New York.

Egon Schiele is an Austrian painted who liked to depict erotic characters in his work. His paintings and drawings depict nudes in unusual poses. This sketch uses simple line very effectively. It is sculptural, and the style is striking and immediate. I feel his sketches are very evident in his finished artworks. There is a consistency between them and his paintings.


Peter Paul Rubens, “Lion”, ca. 1612-1613, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Courtesy Artsy.

Rubens was an old master during the Baroque period. His paintings show evidence of being influenced by the Italian Renaissance era. This lion sketch is a preliminary to his work ‘Daniel and the Lions’ (1614-1616). It is an intricate sketch with many elements. There is attention to detail, beautiful line drawing, rendition of shadows, and highlights blocked in with a white medium (not sure what it is). The lion seems alive, as his stare is arresting and direct.


Pablo Picasso, “Les femmes d’Alger (Women of Algiers”), 1955, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Courtesy Artsy.  

Picasso was a pioneer of the cubist movement. He used bold marks and colours, which reflected his charismatic personality. He would deconstruct space and form in a unique way. This sketch was a preliminary for his painting of ‘Les Femmes d’Alger’. You can see the bold lines and abstract nature of form. He has used striking colours and lines. It has a simplistic style yet at the same time is complex in nature.


William Turner, Two Studies of Figures: Two Women with a Jug, Watching a Man Kneeling to Play Marbles; Studies of the Man’s Hands and Left Leg 1794. Courtesy Tate Collection.

Turner has one of the greatest collections of sketchbooks ever made. He was a British artist that made major contributions to the Romantic movement. His painting technique emphasised the fragility of being human, and the power of nature. In these sketches, form is represented primarily by line. You can see his exploration of the human form. The sketch seems to tell a story. He has drawn small studies of hands. The sketches are simple and charming. Brings back a feeling of nostalgia and childhood.

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