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The Museo Nacional del Prado looks at the different uses of drawings in the creative process

Image of the exhibition gallery From Pencil to Burin. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado.
Image of the exhibition gallery From Pencil to Burin. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado.

Until 14 January in Room D of the Jerónimos Building, the Museo del Prado is presenting the exhibition From Pencil to Burin. Drawings for Printmaking in Goya’s Day. It comprises a selection of 80 prints and drawings which reveal the important role of these designs in the creation of intaglio prints in Spain from the mid-18th to the early 19th centuries.

The exhibition includes works by a number of artists but the principal focus is on two key figures in the development of the art of engraving: Manuel Salvador Carmona (1734-1820), the artist possessed of the greatest technical command of engraving in Spain, and Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), whose remarkable artistic powers and particular understanding of etching opened up new directions in artistic creation.

In addition, the exhibition offers an opportunity to discover some of the works acquired by the Museo del Prado over the past few years in relation to this project.

Curated by José Manuel Matilla, Chief Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Ana Hernández Pugh, author of the catalogue raisonné of Manuel Salvador Carmona’s drawings, the exhibition presents a survey of drawings made as preparatory designs for copperplate engravings, emphasising and highlighting both their functional and artistic importance.

Visitors can see the different techniques and procedures employed from the mid-18th to the early 19th century in order to transpose the intended composition to the copperplate, thus revealing how preparatory drawings played a significant role in the engraver’s understanding of the work.

The training of qualified draughtsmen and engravers in the second half of the 18th century, of whom the leading figure was Manuel Salvador Carmona, allowed for the illustration with engravings of the texts that disseminated Enlightenment thought. While the prints of this period are very well known, the preparatory drawings that acted as their starting point have been relegated to a secondary position in the history of art due to their functional nature. It was, however, these drawings that defined the composition which was subsequently reproduced on the copperplate with absolute precision and fidelity.

The exhibition thus reveals a much broader artistic context, articulated around concepts which define the uses and techniques of works of this type in order to analyse the different phases of the creative process. It shows the diversity of the different phases and states through which an intaglio engraver had to pass in order to complete a work. Overall, the exhibition aims to reveal that it was only on the basis of a high quality drawing that a good print could be obtained.

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