Drawing the Exhibition – Ruebens, Painter of Sketches

One of the current temporary exhibitions at the Museo del Prado is Reubens, Painter of Sketches, by which they mean oil sketches, works on canvas or panel made in preparation for other finished works.

Reubens did, of course, use other drawing media for preparatory works. I struggle with the high finish of his completed canvasses, so the lively brushstrokes he employs in these compositional studies proved much more to my taste.

One of the Victories, part of a sketch on the unity of England and Scotland intended for the Guild Hall, London

His figures, particularly those suspended in mid air, such as the Victory above, or other contorted poses, provide a demonstration of his mastery of human anatomy and are excellent models for copying. I doubt even the most skilled life model could pull this pose off.

It was also a lovely touch for me to see Reubens quoted talking about drawing antique statues. “Artists should use Ancient statues as models, but the figures based on them should be painted to look like flesh not stone.” Included in the exhibition is a study for Prometheus, based on pen and ink studies he made of the Farnese Hercules.

The works on display show a range of ‘finish’. A series of very small studies for decorations of a house (a pretty palatial one) at the end of the exhibition particularly caught my eye. In the Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, the rather corpulent god is supported by a faun while he gropes a nearby young lady.

The Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, oil on panel. My sketch graphite on paper.

I was genuinely engaged by this exhibition and would recommend it to anyone who will be in Madrid before it closes on the 5th of August 2018. NB temporary exhibitions are not accessible during the free access hours at the museum.

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Language lessons

It’s pretty obvious when you cross a border that the language might change and you will have to brush up on your new vocabulary. It may be obvious, but I didn’t think that it would apply to my sketching.

One of the staircases inside Sagrada Famila, watercolour and graphite

We have moved on from Paris and it’s neo-classical buildings, where under those twidly bits, was a regular and reliable structure you could ‘lean on’ to support your drawing. Way further south and east, in the city of Barcelona, there are no such certainties.

The Art Nouveau roofline of 582 Gran Via, Barcelona, which I can see from our hotel.

Moderniste, Art Nouveau and Gaudi, who speaks an architectural dialect all his own, have my sketches grasping for the new vocabulary. I am stumbling along not quite ‘getting’ the local lingo just yet.

From the street, sketching the facade of La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila.

Finally getting somewhere, sketching the ‘guardians’ on the roof of La Pedrera, Barcelona. Water-soluble graphite, watercolour.