Drawing in the Workshop and Academy

Frontispiece to Thomas Sheraton, 'The Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-book’, 1793. Museum no. RC.N.16

Frontispiece to Thomas Sheraton, 'The Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-book’, 1793. Museum no. RC.N.16

The traditional drawing curriculum

During the 14th century drawing classes took place mainly in the master’s workshop. However, as artists grew in status in-studio training was supplemented by gatherings where drawings and sculpture were provided as patterns to copy.

The first formal Accademia di Disegno (Design/Drawing Academy) was founded in Florence in 1563. It was quickly followed by the setting up of similar institutions in the major centres of artistic endeavour in Italy and throughout Europe, all of them with an emphasis on the mastery of drawing before graduation to other media. This hands-on training was also supplement by manuals based on the assumption that the arts are subject to rules, and can be learnt from set precepts.

The Drawing Academy of the 
Goldsmith, Baccio Bandinelli, Eneo Vico, about 1540-67. Museum no. Dyce 
1220

The Drawing Academy of the Goldsmith, Baccio Bandinelli, Eneo Vico, about 1540-67. Museum no. Dyce 1220

Drawing retained a dominant role in art teaching well into the 20th century although there was a reaction to the rigidity with which it had been taught and it ceased to be a compulsory part of the curriculum. During the last decade or two there has been a resurgence of interest in drawing. It can be studied as an independent subject and drawing classes are again popular with aspiring artists and craftspeople.

Traditional teaching, whether in a master’s workshop, a private school or one of the public academies, has followed much the same pattern. Initially students made copies of drawings, prints and paintings by admired masters, known as drawing from the flat. Some drawing teachers made their drawn copies of the masters for their pupils to copy. Then students would graduate to drawing from the round and only when that was well mastered would they graduate to drawing from the figure.


Copying from the flat

Copying from the round

Drawing from anatomy and life

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