Sunday, 17 March 2013

Raphael Drawings: A Review

Cover: Raphael. Study of a Horseman c. 1511/1512. Silverpoint and white heightening.

Raphael. Study of a man hanging by his arms c. 1505/1506. Pen and brown ink.

Raphael. The Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth? and Two Other Saints c. 1511/1513.
Silverpoint heightened with lead white.

Raphael (and workshop), Madonna dell'impannata, c. 1515.

Raphael. The Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1510. Red chalk.

Raphael. Study of a soldier rushing towards the right, behind him two horsemen,
c. 1515/1516. Red chalk over stylus.

Raphael. Three Nude Men in Attitudes of Terror, c. 1510-1514. Black chalk (charcoal?).

Raphael: Drawings is a new book published by Hirmer Publishers focusing on the collection of the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt, and edited by Joachim Jacoby and Martin Sonnabend. The book looks at Raphael's preparatory drawings which he used to compose many of his large-scale works. Some forty-eight drawings are contained in the book with several of Raphael's most familiar works being represented.

I find these preparatory drawings infinitely more instructive than studying finished paintings or murals. The creative process is more easily visible, the thought processes almost tangible. Raphael's line was sensitive and beautiful and the fact that Raphael, Michelangelo and Da Vinci all lived during the same lifetime and in the some region is remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that being coincidental seems out of the question. The focus placed on the process of drawing that was employed during the renaissance must have played a key role. The creative process itself sprang from their drawings. And their process of apprenticeship and the workshop system perpetuated this knowledge.

If we, as draftsmen, ever hope to attain their level of proficiency again, then the study of their preparatory drawings is the place to embark upon that journey. We are experiencing something of a second renaissance in representational, figurative art in this century, after the dead end of modern art during the twentieth century.

Raphael may have been a genius, as were Michelangelo and Da Vinci, but their processes are contained within their drawings, waiting for us to study them. Who's to say that we can't equal them. I, for one, at least have to try.