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Feature: The Big Picture - Exhibition - The Spanish Line: Drawings from Ribera to Picasso at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House until January 15

Published: 10 November, 2011

The Spanish Line, at The Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, is the first substantial exhibition on the tradition of Spanish draughtsmanship to take place in London and reflects the growing scholarly interest in a subject that remains relatively little known.

The exhibition features some 40 of the finest drawings from the Courtauld’s collection and features works by many of Spain’s greatest artists, such as Ribera, Murillo, Goya and Picasso.

Also on display are lesser-known treasures from the Golden Age of Spanish art created by Francisco Pacheco, Antonio Garcia Reinoso, Vicente Carducho, Antonio del Castillo and others. Many of these works have never previously been exhibited.

The exhibition marks the completion of a four-year research project and the publication of a complete scholarly catalogue of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection of Spanish drawings – one of the most important collections held outside Spain, totalling approximately 100 works ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

In many public collections, “Spanish school” was often used as a convenient label for anonymous drawings, frequently from other countries and of lesser quality.

Significant discoveries are still regularly made and this exhibition aims to stimulate further discussion and research in this exciting field of study.

The exhibition is arranged in broadly chronological order, emphasising various aspects of Spanish draughtsmanship.

Early drawings testify to the important role of the Italian High Renaissance as a model in Spain, while others show the 17th-century influence of Dutch and Flemish artists.

Strong devotional feeling is a common characteristic of religious subjects in Spanish drawings, although these are richly varied in technique, style and interpretation. The particularly strong Spanish devotion to the Virgin Mary led to many depictions of her.

Other expressions of Spanish Catholicism include the image of the soul being guided by guardian angels – pictured left in a rapidly sketched brush drawing by the Sevillian Francisco de Herrera the Younger.

The exhibition concludes with two works by Pablo Picasso. One is a delightful early drawing of pigs, executed in 1906 and once owned by the American writer Gertrude Stein, a close friend of the artist. The other is a pen and ink drawing from 1923, titled “Femme Assise”.

The exhibition is complemented by a series of “Lates”, with music, talks and Spanish fare in the Gallery Cafe, making it a perfect way to spend a winter’s evening.  

• The Spanish Line: Drawings from Ribera to Picasso is at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, WC2, until January 15, open daily 10am-6pm, last admission 5.30pm (see Lates, below).   Admission is included to permanent collection: adult  £6, concessions £4.50. Book online at www.courtauld.ac.uk/tickets. Free admission on Mondays 10am-2pm except public holidays, and at all times for under-18s, full-time UK students and unwaged. 020 7848 2526, www.courtauld.ac.uk Lates Until 9 pm on Thursday November 17, and Thursday January 12. Lates include the exhibition and collection and a programme of events.

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