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Investigating drawing - Pencil

Detail from Thomas Hardy

Detail from Thomas Hardy

Prior to lead (actually graphite) pencils, artists used metal points to make precise marks (see above). Wooden pencils were produced in England in the 17th century, but it was not until the 1790s that leads of predetermined hardness or softness (H or B) were manufactured by a French chemist when France was cut off from the English supply of graphite (this shortage was mentioned in despatches from Napoleon). The pencil is our most reliable and flexible form of drawing material. It can be used with a blunt end for soft marks and overall tone or sharply pointed for precise marks.

A selection of examples from the Gallery's collections


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