Poetry of Drawing – Capturing Society and holding it Captive

‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk’ said Swiss born German drawing master and painter Paul Klee (1879 – 1940), making it sound so effortlessly simple.

He had started drawing when his grandmother gave him a box of sidewalk chalk. Very soon everyone was aware as he drew caricatures in his school books, that he was already mastering the skill of line and volume. Klee excelled at drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts at Munich in the latter years of the nineteenth century, where drawing was central to the creative process that led to being called ‘artist’. By 1905 he was drawing on blackened glass with a needle. However being able to transfer his skills onto canvas using colour would remain elusive for him for a decade. That is until he met Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944), August Macke (1887 – 1914) and other avant-garde figures, who would enrich his life’s journey and experience.

When he did learn to manipulate colour and light he worked in many different media, oil paint, watercolour, ink, pastel, etc using canvas, muslin, linen, cardboard, fabric, wallpaper and newsprint. At all times in his work line persisted, and frequently alluded to poetry and music, a career he also considered because his parents wanted it for him, one he eventually abandoned for his passion, drawing.

Klee taught with Kandinsky at the German Bahaus school of art, design and architecture, all areas in which a line of beauty are important. He drew every day in his notebooks, which have informed modern art since his death at Switzerland during World War II.

Like many of his colleagues Klee would have looked back to the period of the Renaissance in Italy (14 – 16th centuries) for inspiration, particularly drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, which remain some of the most marvellous of all the Old Master’s works, especially his perspectives on the natural world. Like the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood in England there was a poetry of drawing for Klee, which was an essential aspect of everything he achieved as he went about capturing society, and holding it captive.  At the Art Gallery of NSW until the 4th September 2011 The Poetry of Drawing is an Exhibition of the designs, studies and watercolours of the British Pre-Raphealites. Making new works of art doesn’t happen in isolation; it’s a shared activity.  In history all major artistic movements came into being when young artists clubbed together to provide each other with moral and material support. In England in the latter years of the nineteenth century a bevvy of beautiful, radical boys banded together to form a Brotherhood that would challenge the creators of their time. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt had an impressive support network of lovely ladies, who posed for them. Then there was a network team of other likely lads. Such as self motivating socialist leader of the arts and crafts movement, William Morris and the critic everyone wanted as their master, mentor or to gain consent to breathe from, John Ruskin. He proved the power of one to affect change was possible.

This Exhibition highlights The Poetry of Drawing and how it altered the course of British Art and includes 140 works– drawings, sketches, watercolours, illustrations and designs for textiles and stained glass. To draw what one can see surely must be one of the most satisfying, pleasing and exciting of all the skills we can inherit. Being able to draw can provide an opportunity to draw people from all walks of life and many and diverse backgrounds together and get them involved in visual conversations about culture and community. You don’t have to be rich to be able to draw, its all about choosing your parents and inheriting the right creative genes.

Of all the quotes about the act of drawing the one I can really personally plug into is that of actor Gary Oldman who said ‘I was quiet, a loner. I was one of those children where, if you put me in a room and gave me some crayons and a pencils, you wouldn’t hear from me for nine straight hours. And I was always drawing racing cars and rockets and spaceships and planes, things that were very fast that would take me away.’ Painter Henri Matisse said ‘drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence’ while Salvador Dali observed that ‘drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad’.

What: The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphealite designs, studies and watercolours
Where: Art Gallery NSW
When: On now until September 4, 2011
Costs – Yes: Refer to Website http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/poetry-drawing/

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