Drawing in the Renaissance

Starting in the fifteenth century, drawing came to be understood as a fundamental creative act. In Italy, it was increasingly viewed as an intellectual activity, closely aligned with the process of pictorial invention. Although surviving in significantly smaller numbers, drawings made in northern Europe also exhibit a growing emphasis on invention and observation, catalyzed by a close study of the natural world. A number of sheets on view here—by Jan van Eyck, Andrea del Verrocchio, Matthias Grünewald, and Correggio—served as preparatory studies for paintings, attesting to drawing’s central role in the conception and execution of other works of art. Other compositions, such Urs Graf’s prominently monogrammed Farewell, speak to the taste for more finished autonomous drawings that emerged at this time. The culture of collecting drawings went hand in hand with these developments. While most works in this section became part of the Dresden collection in the eighteenth century or later, the vibrant nature studies by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop were likely acquired not long after the artist’s death, probably entering the electoral Kunstkammer at the end of the sixteenth century.