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To Draw Or Not To Draw? Contrasting the Approaches of Caravaggio and Guercino (lecture)

Date: Sunday, December 10, 2006
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: Getty Center, Museum Lecture Hall
Admission: Free; reservations required.

Explore the role of drawing in Italian art with Julian Brooks, assistant curator in the Department of Drawings and curator of the current exhibition Guercino: Mind to Paper.

Most Italian late Renaissance and Baroque artists made drawings to prepare for their paintings. These helped them to plan the composition, place figures convincingly in space, study details, and work out the fall of light and shade over the scene. Some artists placed great emphasis on preparatory drawings—but others did not. Extreme examples are the painters Caravaggio (1571–1610) and Guercino (1591–1666).

Caravaggio was known for his dramatic compositions, violent scenes, and strong effects of light and shade. He painted directly from life and hardly drew at all. Guercino's paintings were prized for their inventiveness and psychological insight. His early works were influenced by Caravaggio's strong light effects and shocking subjects, yet—unlike Caravaggio—Guercino drew incessantly, planning every aspect of each work in numerous sketches. Did this make a difference?

Julian Brooks looks at these two artists' contrasting approaches and studies how drawing (or the lack of it) influenced their works. He also discusses some of the practicalities of painting without drawing in 17th-century Italy and the role played by sketches in the planning process.

About Julian Brooks
Julian Brooks is a specialist in Italian late 16th- and early 17th-century drawing. Formerly print room supervisor at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, he organized the current Getty exhibition Guercino: Mind to Paper, which this lecture complements, and wrote the accompanying catalogue.

Martyrdom of Saints John and Paul / Guercino

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