Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Saint Paul Meditating, c. 1627-1629. Red chalk with white highlights and Indian ink wash, 23.7 x 20.1 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris

Drawing Towards the Limelight

Often thought of as a secondary art form, less important than painting, the art of drawing is beginning to enjoy the limelight. Museums around the world are mounting exhibitions focusing on the underrated art of draughtsmanship, and Parkstone’s new book 1000 Drawings of Genius showcases the finest works that this genre has to offer.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Saint Paul Meditating, c. 1627-1629. Red chalk with white highlights and Indian ink wash, 23.7 x 20.1 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Saint Paul Meditating, c. 1627-1629. Red chalk with white highlights and Indian ink wash, 23.7 x 20.1 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris

A genius is defined as “a person with exceptional ability”. And certainly there are those famous draughtsman of yore whose work seems highly worthy of this title. Traditionally the figureheads that spring to mind include the classicists da Vinci, Michelangelo, and later, Rembrandt. The work of these men does seem beyond the stretch of the average Joe with a pencil in hand. And yet the expanse and range of styles within the art of drawing is so great, the field so expressive and free, that perhaps there is room to assume a little creative genius in every one of us.

Indeed some drawings do not bare the most obvious mark of genius. But then, who’s to judge? The beauty of this genre of art is naturally that anyone can give it go. Give a child a crayon and surely that child will produce a mark (ideally on paper) of some distinction. We’ve all seen juvenile “masterpieces” stuck to fridge doors, the domestic art gallery of the under-5s. These proud parent-curators probably feel their youngster is something of a genius for the scribble with which the little dear has graced a page. And perhaps they are right.

I would pronounce myself no genius in the artistic field, though I am partial to a doodle in my free time… Admittedly even my occupied time. Sometimes a quick sketch, a vacant squiggle is just the distraction or indeed occupation one needs to momentarily escape the world of work and deadlines. And a drawing does not have to be a masterpiece to be of artistic worth. A composition as simple as lines on a page can offer insight into that particular creator’s thoughts in a given moment.

David Hockney, Self-Portrait, 26th September 1983, 1983. Charcoal on paper, 76.2 x 57.2 cm. Collection of the artist.
David Hockney, Self-Portrait, 26th September 1983, 1983. Charcoal on paper, 76.2 x 57.2 cm. Collection of the artist.

Way back when, in the times of Filippo and Leonardo , their drawings served, without doubt a higher purpose, perhaps portraying a religious scene to an illiterate congregation or a study of the human form for the advancement of science and medicine. It is exactly the vast range of subjects, the extent of the multifarious styles, medias and interpretations, that makes the history and progression of the art of drawing so interesting to see.

1000 Drawings of Genius, the latest from Parkstone’s The Book collection, takes the reader on a journey through the history of drawing, from the Middle Ages to the modernist masters of the 20th century. Immerse yourself in these one thousand selected masterpieces and, (if you have time after that!), indulge in some doodling of your own! Unearth your inner genius…

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