The Variable Line: Master Drawings from Renaissance to Contemporary

Decemeber 2016 – March 2017


From the birth of graphic art, in the drawings of Paleolithic cave artists, line was the basic means through which to define form or suggest volumes. Likewise relied upon to communicate subtle differentiations of surface, texture, or color, a line is an abstraction, yet one whose foundational, delineative properties are capable of underpinning artistic expression in all media, whether print, painting, sculpture or video.

It is for this reason—as the basic building block of any art making—that drawing’s ubiquity has stretched unbroken to this day, even routinely entering our own lives as doodle or sketch. From the most pervasive to the most individual, drawing, like handwriting, offers us historical perspectives through the continuities inherent to the medium. It also remains the site of radical artistic adaptations or renewals, born of the technical or stylistic idiosyncrasies of artists intent on bucking tradition.

In the end, it is drawing’s immutable simplicity—a line drawn across paper—that makes the drawings exhibited here among those rare objects that enable us to ride along on the creative journey of both Renaissance and contemporary artists.

The Variable Line: Master Drawings, Renaissance to Contemporary is organized by the Redwood Library and Athenaeum and curated by Benedict Leca, Executive Director. The Redwood Library gratefully acknowledges lenders to the exhibition, as well as the support of Cornelius Bond and Ann Blackwell, and Sandra Liotus Lighting Design, LLC.

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