The Spanish Line in the British Museum. Drawings from the Renaissance to Goya

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

    For the first time outside the UK, The Spanish Line in the British Museum. Drawings from the Renaissance to Goya will present a group of 71 works from the collection of drawings by Spanish artists housed in the British Museum, considered one of the most important in the world due to the exceptional quality of the works. The collection offers a reflection of the highly refined taste that English collectors developed for Spanish art during the course of the 19th century. Only a few of these drawings have previously been seen in Spain and the present exhibition thus represents a unique opportunity to see a fascinating survey of the history of Spanish drawings in the galleries of the Museo del Prado. Sponsored at the Prado by its “Friends”, the exhibition was first seen at the British Museum at the end of last year and now arrives in Madrid with notable differences, although maintaining the overall chronological arrangement and sections devoted to regional schools. Within these sections there are works by some of the leading Spanish artists such as Berruguete in the Renaissance and the great masters of the Golden Age including Zurbarán, Murillo, Cano, Ribera and a drawing attributed to Velázquez. The exhibition culminates with the work of Goya, who is particularly well represented in the collection housed at the British Museum

    Tuesday 19 March 2013

    For the first time in Spain, the Museo del Prado and the British Museum are presenting an extensive selection from the collection of Spanish drawings housed in the latter institution and considered one of the finest in the world. Arranged chronologically, the 71 drawings will allow visitors to appreciate the way Spanish artists expressed their commitment to the medium of drawing over a period spanning more than three hundred years, from the mid-16th century to the 19th century.

    The exhibition includes drawings by all the most important artists of this period including Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and Goya, represented through some of their key works. Saint tied to a Tree by Ribera or Don Quixote assailed by Monsters by Goya are examples of the outstanding quality of this selection.

    Drawings by Spanish artists were highly esteemed and collected in Great Britain from the mid-19th century onwards, reflecting the growing taste for Spanish art in that country which was encouraged by the publication of the two volumes of the Handbook for Travellers in Spain by Richard Ford (1845) and Annals of the Artists of Spain by William Stirling Maxwell (1848).

    It was traditionally considered that Spanish artists were not particularly interested in drawing. This idea has, however, been revised in recent years and the present exhibition aims to demonstrate that the notion of drawing as a basis for the practice of art was well established in Spain from the Renaissance to the 19th century.

    The 71 drawings in the exhibition are complemented by two paintings from the Prado’s collection for which the preparatory drawings are in London. The presence of these two oils by Vicente Carducho and Luis Paret allows for a reflection on the role of preparatory drawings in the final work.

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