Lines of Thought

Lines of thought explores drawing as one of the most effective mediums for expressing and representing an artist’s ideas. Its immediacy allows artists to act almost at the speed of thought, their choices legible in every line.

The British Museum’s Prints and Drawings collection is one of the world’s greatest graphic collections with around 50,000 drawings and over two million prints dating from the early fifteenth century to today. The exhibition showcases selected drawings from fifteenth and sixteenth century masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo right up to artists working now. Lines of thought thus emphasises the continuing vitality and fundamental nature of drawing, and its importance for artists from Michelangelo to Mondrian, Rembrandt to Rachel Whiteread, Piranesi to Picasso. What unites all of these artists, from the Renaissance through to contemporary practitioners and all those in-between, is the use of drawing as a means of thinking on paper.

Henri Matisse, 1869–1954
Woman in a taffeta dress seated on a wicker armchair
1938
Charcoal

Rembrandt (1606–1669) and Jan van Vliet (1600/1610–1668?)
Ecce Homo: Christ before Pilate
1635–36
Etching, corrected in numerous places with
brown oil paint by Rembrandt, numerous
fingerprints

Honoré Daumier, 1808–1879
Study for The Troubadour
about 1868–72
Pen and grey ink, with grey wash and black chalk

Anonymous
Book of the Dead: the final
judgement scene
about 940 BC
Red and black ink on papyrus

Michelangelo, 1475–1564
Studies for the Last Judgement
1534
Black chalk

Victor Hugo, 1802–1885
Landscape with a castle
1857
Brush and brown wash, with stencilling, pen and brown ink and touches of white gouache

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1720–1778
Interior of a circular building
1752–60
Pen and brown ink

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