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Metalpoint Drawing through the Centuries

Note: dimensions are given in inches, followed by centimeters in parentheses. Height precedes width.

Nineteenth Century

By the end of the seventeenth century, drawing with metalpoint had almost died out in Europe. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 –1901) British artists revived the medium. Their adoption of silverpoint was part of a broader cultural movement in which artists and the public took an unprecedented inter- est in fifteenth-century art — attending exhibitions, studying Renaissance treatises, and reviving traditional media. On visits to the British Museum to study drawings by Raphael (1483 –1520) and his contemporaries,victorian artists sometimes con- sulted the same Renaissance silverpoints that are shown in this exhibition.

As the century progressed, artists moved away from emulating Renaissance art and began to experiment with new materials and techniques such as goldpoint. Public interest in metalpoint also expanded. During the 1890s amateurs ranging from the pr incess of Wales to schoolchildren took up silverpoint as a hobby, purchasing kits and following instructions published in popular magazines.

Traditionally regarded as a technique suitable for both finished drawings and rapid, rough sketches, metalpoint by the end of the nineteenth century was considered by artists and critics as appropriate  only for works of the utmost delicacy and refine- ment. They  also stressed the technical difficulties of working in metalpoint. although they overemphasized its limitations, particularly the idea that metalpoint lines could never be erased, their views have influenced modern perceptions of the medium.