Showcase Week Starts Today!

The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Presents…

SHOWCASE WEEK: Land to Shore

For one week only the team of postgraduate Print Room Assistants will be presenting a selection of five of our most striking works on paper for public viewing, thereby marking the third presentation of the biannual Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Showcase Week.  The first two installments highlighted depictions of The Nude and Scaled-Up, while the forthcoming week is dedicated to the study of prints and drawings that deal with the theme of Land to Shore.  The aim of this theme is to focus attention on how artists explore the relationship between land and sea, the extent to which a division is created by the coast or the horizon, and how this is interpreted on paper.  Including drawings and prints from the 1500s to the 1900s by artists from Bruegel to Turner to Kokoschka, this Showcase Week presentation encompasses the impressive breadth of The Courtauld’s collection of works on paper in terms of period, media, geography, and function.

‘Land to Shore’ also complements two exhibitions currently on view in The Courtauld Gallery, both of which focus on different elements of landscape.  The display in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, Panorama, explores invented, observed, and mapped panoramas while the Gallery’s major autumn exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, highlights the artist’s near-abstract paintings of the coast of his native West Cornwall from the 1950s.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm this week our doors will be open without any appointment necessary, and each work will be on display for one day only.  Our friendly Print Room Assistants are eager to introduce their selected prints and drawings to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions.

The following works will be the focus of each days session:



Pieter the Elder Bruegel (ca. 1525-1569), A storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp, Circa 1559, Pen, brown ink and graphite, D.1978.PG.11

Two-thirds of this striking drawing are dedicated to a vivid study of the motion of waves during a storm. Beyond the receding waves of the river Schelde the city of Antwerp, one of the North Sea’s premier trading ports, can be seen. The visual dominance of the water dwarfs the city and the ships, underscoring the power of nature.




Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607 – 1642), Coastal Cityscape with Ships, 1670, Etching, G.1990.WL.3018.79

This imaginary harbour scene by the German artist Johann Wilhelm Baur is based upon Venetian cityscapes. Here the manmade quay that cuts at right angles into the water is emphasised through the monumental buildings built along this artificial shoreline.




Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714 – 1789), Harbour scene, Naples, around 1750, Pen and ink, brown watercolour, graphite, D.1952.RW.1798

Vernet drew the Darsena (harbour) of Naples several times on his many trips there while living in Italy between 1734 and 1753. Here, using only his pen, ink, and brown washes on paper (left bare in places to depict the surface of the water reflecting sky) he captures the intensity of Mediterranean light.




Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Storm on Margate Sands, around 1835-40, Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour (white and blue) on paper, D.1974.STC.2

J.M.W. Turner produced a number of watercolours depicting the coastal landscape of Margate, a town where he went to school in his childhood and often visited throughout his life. In this vibrant watercolour, Turner focuses on the interplay between land, sea, and sky, as well as light and darkness and atmospheric elements by masterfully combining the use of different media.




In this drawing, Kokoschka achieved rich colouristic effects in the foreground by applying washes in a swift, painterly manner. This vibrancy separates the land from the steel blue sea, rendered in more uniform horizontal strokes.


Tiepolo's Magician: Our Drawing of the Week

In the weeks leading up to Christmas 2013, for one morning per week, you can see a print or drawing from our collection in the intimate setting of our Print Study Room. Next up is Tiepolo’s ‘A Magician (?) surrounded by a a group of figures’. 

Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings, Prints and Drawings Study Room Assistant, explains why she chose this drawing and what it means to her. You can see the drawing for yourself on  Wednesday 27 November, 10am-12.3opm. 

I first discovered the rich collection of prints and drawings at The Courtauld when studying for a Masters there in 2005. I found it really inspiring to work directly with this collection that covers such a broad period in the history of art; from the Renaissance through to the present day.

After leaving The Courtauld I worked at the V&A as Assistant Curator of Paintings and Drawings. This September I returned to The Courtauld to begin my PhD on early 16th-century Italian prints and drawings. I am delighted that I am also able to return as Print Room Assistant and work once again with the collection.

My favourite display that I curated whilst at the V&A was Venetian Visions. This showcased Venetian art, and in particular prints and drawings, from 1703-1797.

Although I knew Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s paintings from trips to Venice and the Veneto, it was only through working on Venetian Visions that I discovered the artist’s drawings.

Tiepolo is a particularly interesting draughtsman.

He used drawings to develop designs for paintings and sculpture as well as compositional studies. These drawings reflect the artist’s mastery of different media and create powerful images, described by one contemporary as ‘all spirit and fire’.

I’ve chosen this drawing as I feel it exemplifies Tiepolo as a draughtsman.

The identity of the figure in a turban is unclear. He occurs frequently in Tiepolo’s work and is often interpreted as a magician.

Tiepolo's drawing of A Magician (?) surrounded by a group of figures

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,
A Magician (?) surrounded by a group of figures,

Figures group around the magician, who points down to the lower centre of the sheet. Rapid lines of pen and wash emphasise his powerful gesture. Fluent pen strokes capture the figures that huddle together, looking down to where the hand points.

The arrangement of the figures recalls that of A Magician pointing to a burning head from the series Tiepolo’s of etchings, the Scherzi di Fantasia.

This drawing may be an early sketch for that etching. The Scherzi di Fantasia often show mysterious figures wearing classical and oriental costume gathered around a magician. The exact meaning of these etchings is still unknown.

For me, both his drawings and etchings provide an intimate insight into Tiepolo’s working process and inventive mind.

You can see Bryony’s choice this Wednesday 27 November 2013, 10am – 12.30pm.