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Exhibition features celebrated works from the 1500s to the 1800s from the Getty Museum's drawings collection
Albert Dubois-Pillet (French, 1846 - 1890), The Banks of the Marne at Dawn, about 1888. Watercolor over traces of black chalk, 15.8 × 22.2 cm (6 1/4 × 8 3/4 in.) Accession No. 2008.25 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- From two-dimensional sheets of paper, artists conjure three-dimensional worlds. Even the simplest sketch can yield an arresting impression of presence in the hands of a master, and close examination of a drawing often reveals hidden layers of creativity and complexity. Featuring celebrated works from the 1500s to the 1800s, all from the Getty Museum’s drawings collection, Finding Form, on view now through February 11, 2018, demonstrates how artists skillfully select from a vast array of media and techniques to best generate form, likeness, and depth in creating a drawing.

“The immediacy of drawing brings us into direct contact with the creative process as we seem to peer over the artist’s shoulder,” says Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts. “This display of a wide range of master drawings from our collection focuses on the seeming magic of creating an image of three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface, and the various techniques artists use to convey the effects of light and shadow on our ‘reading’ of form.”

Works in the exhibition reveal how artists utilized media such as chalk, ink, and different pens to yield form. In Study of a Rearing Horse (about 1616), where the artist Jacques Callot was faced with the difficult task of showing a dramatically foreshortened horse from behind, he made initial quick sketches with a quill pen (made from a bird’s feather), then added more forceful strokes with a reed pen (made from a reed), which produces lines that more easily swell and taper with the pressure of the artist’s hand.

Watercolor can produce transparent, luminous effects that are well suited to conveying the impression of weather. As the mist dissolves and sunshine breaks through scattering rain clouds in Mount Snowdon through Clearing Clouds (1857) by Alfred Hunt, the mountains dematerialize and reappear within the shifting effects of light and shadow. Hunt used the medium of watercolor and the techniques of blotting, rubbing, and scraping to capture brilliantly these atmospheric conditions.

“I find it fascinating to see how – over the centuries – artists have used all the techniques at their disposal to create different realities on each sheet,” says Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings. “We always provide magnifying glasses in our displays, and – just by looking closely – anyone can gain entry into a rich variety of other worlds.”

In The Archangel Raphael Refusing Tobias’s Gift, Giovanni Biliverti explored the full potential of red chalk, a classic Florentine medium used widely since the Renaissance. While some forms were created with traditional strokes, to render smoke and ruffled drapery the chalk was ground to a powder and mixed with water to produce translucent effects. A new acquisition, the drawing is one of the finest by the artist.

Finding Form, is curated by Annie Correll, former graduate intern in the department of Drawings, and Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center now through February 11, 2018.

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