Imagine if you could spend two whole days in a gallery discovering the tricks of the trade of master artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo and understanding what they did that forever changed how people saw their world!
Well that’s exactly what 21 Year 8-10 students from Williamstown High School had the opportunity to do last week as part of NGV Education ‘Young Researchers’ program exploring the current exhibition Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado.
The program started with a lively lecture which introduced the students to the super stars of the exhibition such as Raphael, Correggio, Titian, Tintoretto, Reni, the Carracci painters, Tiepolo (Giambattista) and his two sons Giandomenico Tiepolo and Lorenzo Tiepolo.
The students then spent the next hour and half in the exhibition exploring and drawing directly from these old masterpieces which span a period from the late 1400s into the 1700s.
To develop their understanding of the body, many artists from this period studied plaster casts of ancient classical sculpture and of course they drew directly from life models. To emulate this activity, NGV Education commissioned a local body caster to create 20 plaster casts of actual feet and hands. These were taken from people who were diverse in age, body shape and size. The Williamstown High School students were the first to use these casts for observational drawing. They used a range of materials and tools – the favourite being ink. The results are stunning and have been placed on the studio walls to inspire the many students who will undertake drawing workshops over the course of the exhibition.
In the morning of day two, the students were introduced to a range of techniques and tools used by the old masters to reproduce their drawings and prepare their paintings. These included pouncing (a transfer method), counter-proofing (a transfer method that produces a mirror image), grids, drawing frames, and the camera obscura (a forerunner of the modern camera).They had a great deal of fun and achieved some fantastic results exploring this part if the program.
Next the students were escorted into the gallery spaces where they spent time drawing directly from sculptures in the NGV collection. These included our famous Torso of an athlete (1st century BC-1st century AD) and Peter Scheemakers’ (1691-1781) marble portraits of the Shirley brothers (c.1745). The students rose to the challenge and produced some extraordinary drawings.
Back in the studios, and to finish the program, students’ imaginations were unleashed as they created their own fantasy creatures inspired by the drawing A chimera (La chimera) 1590–1610, attributed to Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian 1547–1627). This work features a mythical creature which has three heads of different animals, a lion, a goat and a serpent. To emulate the delicate mark making of Ligozzi, students used materials such as scratcher board and toothpicks as well as fine line markers.