The Variable Line: Master Drawings from Renaissance to Contemporary

Visit the Redwood to see "The Variable Line: Master Drawings from Renaissance to Contemporary," on view through March 5, 2017 in the Van Alen Gallery. Organized by the Redwood Library, the sole U.S. venue, and featuring forty-five works, the exhibition is arranged as a survey featuring many types of drawings—from preliminary sketches to finished presentation drawings—rendered in a rich variety of styles and techniques, and treating a broad range of themes.

“Artists have always relied on drawing to put down ideas quickly—it serves this purpose perhaps even more now as the medium on-the-go appropriate to today’s global art world. In that sense drawing has always attached to the conceptual. Certainly drawing is integral to the larger turn towards conceptual thinking in contemporary art, from Sol Lewitt to Julie Mehretu,” explains Benedict Leca, Redwood Executive Director and exhibition curator. “That said, it is interesting to note how the works by contemporary women artists on view are at once visibly painstaking in their technique and contrary to traditional notions of skill.”

The presentation is arranged into seven sections—Académies and the Centrality of the Figure, Line and the ‘Grand Manner,’ Fragonard and Ariosto, The Light of Italy and the Lure of the Antique, Drawing the Pastoral, Landscape and the Bucolic, and Master/Mistress: the Gendered Line—enabling visitors to identify both continuities and ruptures in theme and technique across 500 years of drawing practice in Western Europe and America.

Upending the now conventional dominance accorded to digital media or even painting, the selection of drawings on display crossing five centuries—from Renaissance to contemporary—speaks to drawing’s eternal relevance as consonant to art making in any medium, be it painting, sculpture or video. It is for this reason that drawing’s ubiquity has stretched unbroken to this day, routinely entering our own lives as doodle or sketch. From the most pervasive to the most individual, drawing, like handwriting, thus offers historical perspectives through the continuities inherent to the medium, as well as insights into the stylistic idiosyncrasies of its adaptation by individual artists. The immutable simplicity of a line drawn across paper, parchment or mylar makes the drawings exhibited here among those rare objects that enable visitors to ride along on the creative journey of both Renaissance and contemporary artists.

The Variable Line: Master Drawings, Renaissance to Contemporary is organized by the Redwood Library and Athenaeum and curated by Benedict Leca, Executive Director. The Redwood Library gratefully acknowledges lenders to the exhibition, as well as the support of Cornelius Bond and Ann Blackwell, and Sandra Liotus Lighting Design, LLC.