The Art of Drawing: Portraits from the Collection, 1670-1780

Past display archive
19 October 2012 - 19 May 2013

Room 16


From pencil to pastel, drawing is a diverse medium that offers insight into almost every aspect of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century artistic practice.  Yet despite this diversity, drawing has often been seen as a lesser art.  Artists who worked exclusively in watercolour, ink and chalk were limited to becoming associates of the Royal Academy rather than being eligible for full membership. Only the newly-popular medium of pastel was granted a comparable status to painting. This hierarchy has masked the importance of works on paper and their growing popularity amongst sitters, artists and collectors.  By the end of this period, drawing had become established as a respectable medium for portraiture.

This display brings together rarely-displayed works on paper from the National Portrait Gallery Collection by some of the best-known seventeenth and eighteenth century artists.  Including images by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) and Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), it explores some of the innovations, talents and techniques that made drawing so popular.

© National Portrait Gallery, London