A Saint Tied to a Tree, José de Ribera. Red chalk, 232 x 170 mm, 1626 © The Trustees of the British Museum 1850, 0713.4

The exhibition opens with the oldest drawings by 16th-century Spanish artists working in Castile, including Alonso Berruguete. This section also explores the repercussion on Spanish drawing of the presence of foreign artists in the country, primarily Italians, who were working on the decoration of the monastery at El Escorial. Among them was Pellegrino Tibaldi, represented here by one of the most outstanding architectural drawings of the 16th century, Study for the Decoration of the Library at El Escorial.

This section continues with the work of some of the most important 17th-century artists active in the different regions of Spain, which were independent artistic centres. They include Vicente Carducho, Alonso Cano and Francisco Rizi in Madrid; Francisco Pacheco, Murillo and Zurbarán in Seville; Juan Ribalta in Valencia and José de Ribera in Naples. All represent the great burgeoning of drawing that took place in the Golden Age, of which outstanding examples are The Dwarf Miguelito by Rizi, The Archangel Michael by Murillo, A miraculous healing by a Saint attributed to Ribalta and Tityus (or Prometheus) by Ribera.

From the 18th century the exhibition includes key works by Luis Paret (Masked Ball at the Teatro del Príncipe) and by José Camarón (Oriental Woman under an Awning) as well as drawings by other masters of this period, demonstrating artists’ increasing use of the medium at this period in response to international trends and influences.

The exhibition concludes with the work of Francisco de Goya, who permanently changed the context of Spanish art and contributed to making the country one of the leading artistic centres in Europe. Goya’s drawings explore the imagination, beliefs and human conduct. Eight works that span his entire career and have never previously been seen in Spain (including the magnificent drawing of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington) reveal his incomparable versatility as a draughtsman and the variety of subjects that attracted his interest.

 
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