Pen & Ink. The Sculptor's Drawings

From March 12 to November 2, 2008

Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) is known throughout the world for his sculptures, but he was also a great draftsman. In this exhibition Thorvaldsens Museum presented some of his finest drawings. Spontaneous studies alternate with well-considered studies of specific motifs, poses, and composition schemes. The drawings on view ranged in time across Thorvaldsen’s whole life − from his youth in Copenhagen through the more than 40 years he lived in Rome to his last years in Denmark.

Pen & Ink

In the course of his life Thorvaldsen drew on many different kinds of paper: clean white sheets, sketch books and coloured paper. He drew in pencil, ink, charcoal and chalk. He often returned to the same sheets, drew new sketches in the margins of the old ones and now and again his lines appear on old bills, invitations and ticket. Any paper that was within reach could be used when he wanted to preserve an idea for a sculpture.

Thorvaldsen’s working methods

In many of the drawings Thorvaldsen naturally exhibits a spontaneity not found in his sculptures. One senses the rapid movements of his hand across the paper. And the drawings therefore give a fascinating insight into the sculptor’s work on developing the right form and composition in his sculptures. Furthermore, as opposed to the heavy, fragile sculptures, the drawings had the advantage of being easy to send over long distances. This was practical when his clients were to decide which version they wished to commission.

Thorvaldsen’s motifs

In his youthful years at the Royal Academy Thorvaldsen had to copy the drawings of his teachers and to draw after plaster models. After his arrival in Rome on 8 March 1797 he drew after living models, and he became a frequent visitor to the Roman museums and art collections. Here he immersed himself in the world and works of Antiquity. From now on his drawings were chiefly studies for sculptural works, but there are also many examples of freely imagined drawings with cheerful and erotic motifs. Thorvaldsen’s drawings constitute a unique body of works that enable us to trace his creative process to its very roots.

The exhibition was arranged by curator Margrethe Floryan.

Bly & Blæk Ariadne with a panther, 1817.

Bly & Blæk Diomede’s capture of the Palladium, 1804.

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