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The Spanish Line in the British Museum. Drawings from the Renaissance to Goya Wednesday, March 20, 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 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

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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