Saturday, May 9, 2015
Heavy Metal at the National Gallery
When: through July 26, 2015
Before I saw this exhibit, I'd never heard of metalpoint, a drawing technique that began in the Middle Ages and continues to be practiced today. The National Gallery's website offers this description of the technique:
An artist working in metalpoint uses a sharp, pointed instrument (a stylus) with a metal tip to draw on paper, parchment, or wood that has been specially coated. As the stylus travels across this slightly abrasive ground, a small amount of metal is scraped off and remains behind, creating a line.
Pieces done in metalpoint have a precision to them that I like very much. You can see how painstaking the artist has to be to create in this medium, and that's after the ground is prepared. To see all the work that goes into making a surface that will receive the metal, check out this video from the Gallery's website, which is also playing in the exhibit itself: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/video/silver-gold-johns.html.html.
I was especially glad to see pieces by Albrecht Durer, with whose work I had become familiar in a National Gallery show from 2013. His "Dog Resting" is wonderful - you almost expect the animal to rise up when you approach. The other piece that caught my eye was one by Andrew MacCallum, "Forest of Scots Firs." It's a landscape, which is unusual for metalpoint. What I liked best was the highlighting on the trees - you can almost feel the sunlight.
Also on display is a stylus, so you can see the instrument used to create these pieces - a nice touch, since I can only assume that others are as unfamiliar with this technique as I am.
Verdict: An interesting show, manageable in a lunch hour.