Drawings from the past

Exhibit highlights the intricacies of sketches and drawings

The Frances K. Smith Gallery has several large and small drawings ranging from ones of random people to mythological characters.
The Frances K. Smith Gallery has several large and small drawings ranging from ones of random people to mythological characters.
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While I was walking down the road to see an exhibit, little did I know when I finally made it to the right gallery, I had stepped into seventeenth-century Western Europe.

I was visiting the exhibit Draw Every Day: Practice and Study in European Works on Paper and on the walls in front of me were drawings — frail brown lines on paper that were gracefully framed together to make figures of people from the god Apollo to a strange woman sitting alone with a basket.

The aged pieces of art in the Frances K. Smith Gallery at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre weren’t vibrant and colourful. They were drawings that almost looked like plans for grander paintings in the future.

Initially, it was difficult to remember I was still standing in an exhibit because the muted blacks and browns of the drawings melted into the off-white hues of the walls so fluidly. The result was a collection of tan shades in the room that made me feel like I was sitting on the seats of a Buick Enclave.

One example of these simplistic brown lines was Willem de Poorter’s work entitled Solomon’s Idolatry. The piece uses light and shadows to depict the metaphoric downfall of the Biblical character King Solomon, as he partakes in the worship of idols. Minimal strokes are used to depict the scene and long straight lines portray the dress robes, as squiggly short lines depict Solomon’s hair.

A short six steps to the right, Agostino Carracci’s Latona with the infants Apollo and Diana depicts Latona and Jupiter’s two children, Jupiter being the god of sky and thunder. The family is sitting under a tree as Apollo is breastfed by his mother. The shading around the faces of people in the drawing gets darker, while the leaves on the tree are lighter and airier. If I was able to take anything from my metaphoric journey to Europe for the afternoon, one thing was for sure. As I walked around the U-shaped room, the exhibit’s simplicity aided in showing the intricate details of each individual aspect in every drawing.

Even if these drawings were merely plans for larger paintings, it’s clear the artist may not have gotten the same detail across to the viewer with bolder colours and shapelier lines. In this particular case, less was more.

Draw Every Day: Practice and Study in European Works on Paper is on exhibit at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre until Oct. 7.

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