Observation and Fantasy, 1600–1750

Drawing in this period is characterized by the productive tension between the close observation of natural phenomena and an exuberant, unconstrained play of imagination. On the one hand, artists continued to deeply engage with subjects from the Christian tradition and ancient mythology, constructing complex narrative compositions and often imbuing them with an intense emotional charge. On the other, they looked closely at the world around them, producing acutely observed and confidently rendered studies. Portraiture—and especially self-portraiture—gained renewed importance, as seen here in works by Carlo Maratti and Anton Raphael Mengs. Made thirty years apart, two drawings by Rembrandt represent the Kupferstich-Kabinett’s rich historic collection of works by the innovative Dutch artist, as well as his students and associates.