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Driven to Draw: Twentieth-century drawings and sketchbooks form the Royal Academy's Collection
Sir Frank Brangwyn, R.A., Portrait of A.H. Mackmurdo, 1 May 1945. Red chalk on cream laid paper. Photo: ©Royal Academy of Arts, London.
LONDON.- A new exhibition in the Tennant Gallery reveals the richness of the Academy’s rarely seen holdings of twentieth-century drawings and sketchbooks. Although drawing is a natural human activity, only in the twentieth century have artists drawn more from inner compulsion than out of practical necessity. By including a wide range of styles, techniques and modes of draughtsmanship found in works by both Royal Academicians and students alike – everything from doodles to diploma works – the exhibition aims to capture the magic of drawing done for its own sake.

Works in the exhibition include a characteristically direct street scene by L.S. Lowry RA and an atmospheric view of an Essex church by Edward Bawden RA. Frank Brangwyn RA’s powerful, fleshy likeness of his mentor, A. H. Mackmurdo, is displayed alongside a delicate pencil portrait by Michael Landy RA of the former RA Exhibitions Secretary Sir Norman Rosenthal. Works by John Skeaping RA and John Bratby RA reveal the very different techniques these artists used to depict animals: Skeaping’s precisely portrayed racehorse contrasting with a scruffily characterful collie dog by Bratby. Life drawings on show include a meticulous student exam drawing from 1917 by Winifred Broughton Edge and a masterly 1996 exploration of form by the sculptor Bryan Kneale RA. The display will also reveal the ways in which people sketch to think, observe, explore and relax, including a diverse array of examples by artists such as George Clausen RA, Gilbert Ledward RA, Laura Knight RA and Ivor Abrahams RA.

Also on show is a ten-minute film, made by researcher Elisa Alaluusua, in which the sculptor Michael Sandle RA talks about his sketchbooks.

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