Friday, 12 April 2013



Drawing is a noteworthy medium within the connoisseurship of fine art; being important to both collectors and art historians. Drawings can be an excellent choice for collectors who can frame their collections around the medium or include them to complete the story of a specific artist’s oeuvre. Novice and discerning collectors will recognize that drawings can be a good starting point for an art collection. As works on paper, drawings are often an affordable way of obtaining outstanding examples by highly marketable or historically significant artists whose paintings on panel or canvas sell in the highest, and often less obtainable, league. Furthermore, the medium is often used for sketching in the preliminary stages of an artistic process, and can therefore be used by historians and connoisseurs for research and insight into an artist’s techniques. Drawing can also be intentionally used as the medium of choice for a stand-alone finished work of art, often adding an additional dimension to an artist’s oeuvre.

For Group of Seven artists such as Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, whose drawings have both been published, the medium was frequently used for rapid sketchbook notations en plein air. Their drawings often preceded the popular oil panel sketches that the Group members are known for, and marked the first step towards a finished panel or even canvas. In a publication of Harris’s sketchbook drawings art historian Joan Murray remarked that, “drawings take us some distance into the artistic life of Lawren Harris.” Harris’ sketchbook drawings were intimate and display quick yet accomplished draughtsmanship; which often included notations regarding colour, place or theme as seen in White Mountains, near Sugarloaf, New Hampshire. They were not necessarily intended to be seen by the public. The drawings with notations are an excellent primary source for research and understanding the artists. Well-known artists and friend of Harris noted that “his drawings are a key which open the door to what he was thinking and painting.

Lawren Harris himself understood the importance of drawings in an artist’s career; not just as studies for finished works, but as completed works of art themselves. He wrote an essay in 1945 to accompany his friend Emily Carr’s retrospective exhibition. Within he devoted much attention to her charcoal drawings. He felt that her charcoal drawings held “her widest range of expression and experimentation.” Emily Carr used drawing both as a means to flesh out ideas for the bigger picture and for completed works of art. In her 1990 publication Emily Carr, Doris Shadbolt proclaimed, “drawing was a natural habit with Carr…[and] is an important and relatively little-known body of her work.” Shadbolt stated that Carr produced innumerable drawings for nature in pencil, charcoal, or brush, ranging from small sketchbook drawings… to more developed compositions, like Inside a Forest. Shadbolt mentioned that a group of, “small sketchbooks first in 1929 and 1930 were the basis for a group of studio drawings done at the same time but of a larger format… and on good quality paper,” as seen in Inside a Forest. Like Lawren Harris, Doris Shadbolt insisted upon the importance of Carr’s drawings to “tell us about…[the] inventive artist.”

Another British Columbian artist who is well-known for using meticulously detailed graphite sketches as the first step towards subsequently creating watercolours and then finally canvases, was E.J. Hughes. Like Harris, he would include notations throughout. However, he too was know to use the medium for completed works of art, as seen in his graphite portrait of F.W. Guernsey.

With the credit that scholars have given to drawings, and the real feasibility of adding them to art collections, drawing is clearly a fine art medium that warrants a good look!

By: Jill Turner

Photo credits:

1. Lawren Harris White Mountains, near Sugarloaf, New Hampshire, 1935, graphite on paper

2. Emily Carr Inside a Forest charcoal on paper, circa 1929-30, 24.5 x 29 in.

3. E.J. Hughes Portrait of F.W. Guernsey, Stanley Park Fort graphite on paper

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