a trip to lalit kala library

its been two years since i last visited Lalit kala library at Mandi House. And this visit was to soak in drawing.

I began with a book on Rembrandt. The first volume which has mapped his drawings mentions – Objective Chronology as the best method of mapping his works. Further the book creates divisions through Chapters such as Religious, historical, mythical subject, portraits, street scenes, Biblical studies etc. The first volume contains works where he uses Pen and Bistre, with brush and washes quite often. These are sketches and it seems he drew a lot. Drawing was like talking to him. And no wonder, western, european thinking stresses so much on Drawing and Writings on Drawing. These are works in the year 1628. This is almost 400 years ago.

Britannica.com mentions Bistre as:

Bistre, brown pigment made from boiling the soot of wood. Because bistre is transparent and has no body, it is frequently used in conjunction with pen and ink drawings as a wash, a liquid spread evenly to suggest shadows, and is especially associated with the appearance of the typical “old master drawing.”

It was used to its greatest effect in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the bistre wash was especially favoured by such artists as Rembrandt, Claude LorrainAlexander Cozens, and Thomas Gainsborough. The pigment is also used by miniaturists

So now we have a new term, the sign of an Old master drawing having tree juice washes. Now I think I would put banana milk shake. But I am no Master. Maybe I am.

The book also mentioned terms such as ” closely related in style ” meaning that this work is of Rembrandt as it closely matches that work or that work. And the book mentions a serial number and a Catalogue number. You can use both ways to search for the image through the drawing description or the drawing image as you read the drawing description. I realised that the Drawing description is like a world in itself. The artist is dead and so it is multiple authors deciding If he made it or not, and if he did, is it after the painting related to the work or is it prepatory drawing. Is it his signature style etc.

I have only seen Volume 1, so I can write more only when i see more of this.

I do see a line difference when i compare a work ( A Foot operation ) to let us say a pen drawing work (Boaz & Ruth) etching. I suppose the art of rendering the image changes. We now see differently what we see with our eyes in the physical world and on paper when this style changes.

Whereas a book on Indian Drawings from a western writer states these important terms:

black line on paper, washes on paper, slight colour on paper, black line with gold, unfinished sketch, tinted drawings, cartoon for a wall painting and black line on tan paper. This is a book on Drawings made in India. Whatever India means. And these are all miniature paintings era. There is no Modern art , or modern drawings here. All are by Court or village painters, regional artist doing commissioned work.

I found it odd to read – black line on paper. yes, its a black line, but i would have loved to know the tool used and paper used. I can also see that is black line on paper. The foot operation work by Rembrandt mentioned – Pen and bistre in brown, brush and washes in grey Indian ink. and here it is written black line on paper.

I moved on quickly to a book on Important drawings in The Art Institute of Chicago. In this book, i flipped through pages looking at works which are of lesser known artist working on Drawing. And I hope to see a book on Artist in India ( what does INDIA mean, i still dont get it ). India seems like a defined name for a country. Yet India is too mysterious, too unexplainable when you see the works. We cannot relate with the country because times have changed so much. We don’t have such images to see in our life anymore, the ones being seen in the image of the Raja, his kingdom, the queen, the people, horses, elephants, palaces etc. And even that style of working when At least when i sit down to draw.

Some names which struck me:

Drawings of Guercino, a pen & iron gall ink with brush work. It had wavy lines.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, lines on washes, scribble and drawing on a site.

Goya: wash & what he made me see. 3 soldiers carrying…. the title of the work.

Georges Seurat: Landscape with bees. Done in Conte Crayon.

Arshile Gorky = Charcoal on Ivory Paper.

These were the lesser known Drawers which created interest in me. There were famous ones, known ones but skipped them to open up my horizon on the history of Drawing and the problem I have faced with VITAMIN D book which has contemporary drawing practices. Somewhere the origin of drawing is missing there, as the book is like 100 books inside a book. 100 means lets say 100 drawers being convered and each drawer is being written by a seperate author.

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