Drawing on History - HA666

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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5 30 (15)
Canterbury Spring
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5 30 (15) DR MB Newall
(version 2)
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5 30 (15)







This module will pursue three interrelated aims through the use and study of drawing:
Firstly, it will introduce students to the range of drawing techniques used by the Old Masters, the different types of drawings they produced and their function in the process of designing and executing works of art. It will equip students with the tools for analysing and identifying drawings, providing the foundations for effective connoisseurship. Working with collections of Old Master drawings such as those at the British Museum, the Courtauld Institute, the Strang Print Room and the Victoria & Albert Museum it will familiarise students with a representative range of graphic art from the European tradition by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Dürer, Annibale Carracci, Rubens and Van Dyck.
Secondly, it will equip students with a practice-based understanding of the role of drawing in artistic training and of its importance as a tool for creative work. Students will participate in drawing seminars where they will carry out exercises modelled on artistic practice during the period 1400-1700 and illustrated with examples of Old Master drawings to provide guidance. These will begin with rudimentary conventions for drawing eyes and ears, through copy drawings to mechanical drawing methods like perspective and shadow projection, tracing and the use of the grid. The exercises will then build on these simple beginnings and develop towards portrait drawing informed by anatomical analysis of the skull, drawing from sculptural casts, from the draped and nude figure, sketching the landscape, and finally working towards the compositional drawing and methods for enlarging it. Drawing exercises will clarify for students the processes of artistic visualization and design, and make available to them an important tool of visual and art historical analysis.
Thirdly, the module will provide students with historical insights into the importance of drawing for art in the Western tradition, and of the theoretical expression of this importance in the concept of 'disegno'. It will explore theories defining drawing as an intellectual process of design (as well as a graphic technique), and related debates concerning the relative importance of drawing and colour, and painting and sculpture.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

There will be four contact hours a week, consisting of a two hour class combining lecture and seminar, and a two hour drawing seminar. In addition trips to London will be organised during reading weeks to study drawings. There will be 40 timetabled contact hours, plus trips and the convenor's office hours. For a 30 credit module students should complete at least 300 hours of study, the majority of which will be private study guided by handouts and reading lists.
Lectures, close readings of key texts and presentations on Old Master drawings, together with field trips to collections of drawings in London, will address the first and third aims of the module outlined above (subject-specific learning outcomes 1-3 and 6).
The weekly drawing seminar will involve students following a carefully designed series of drawing exercises that will develop skills of visual analysis and provide a practice-based education in drawing. The point of these exercises is not to produce artistic work of aesthetic merit, but simply to complete a series of tasks modelled on workshop practice during the period 1400-1700 that will promote historical understanding and heighten visual awareness. The drawing seminar addresses subject-specific learning outcomes 4 and 5.

Method of assessment

Essay of 3000 words (40%)

Critical analysis of 1000 words of a drawing in a British collection (30% each)

Drawing portfolio (30%)

Preliminary reading

Francis Ames-Lewis and Joanne Wright, Drawing in the Italian Renaissance Workshop, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1983.
Francis Ames-Lewis, Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy, New Haven and London, 2000.
Carmen C. Bambach, Drawing and Painting in the Italian Renaissance Workshop, Cambridge, 1999.
Cennino Cennini, The Craftsman's Handbook, trans. Daniel V. Thompson, Dover, 1960.
Bernard Chaet, The Art of Drawing, 1988.
Edward Olszewski, The Draftsman’s Eye, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1981.
Deborah Rockman, The Art of Teaching Art, 2000.
Giorgio Vasari, Vasari on Technique, trans. Louisa Maclehose, Dover, 1960.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students will

1) have further developed skills of critical reading and analysis of a range of primary and secondary texts, including visual materials.

2) have further developed the key skills of written communication, problem solving, and have attained responsibility for their own learning.

3) have used relevant Information Technologies to research and present their work.

4) have further developed the key skills of oral communication and working with others in a group, as well as gaining confidence in participating in critical discussion and debate while remaining open to the viewpoints of others.

5) have advanced in their use of relevant learning and reference resources (including visual resources) within the Templeman Library and the internet, and have used them effectively to support their arguments and analyses.

6) have improved their ability to write coherent, informed and logical arguments in a well-organised and well-presented essay.

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