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Get Drawn In: Michelangelo Drawing Lounge

By: Stephanie Foster, Interpretive Planner, Public and Academic Engagement

Seated male nude, separate study of his right arm (recto), 1511. Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564). Red chalk, heightened with white; 27.9 x 21.4 cm. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790. © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

The CMA’s blockbuster exhibition Michelangelo: Mind of the Master invites visitors to get immersed in Michelangelo’s creative genius through more than 50 original drawings. In the essay below, Stephanie Foster, interpretive planner in the Department of Public and Academic Engagement, discusses the CMA’s Drawing Lounge, a space designed in tandem with the exhibition to familiarize visitors with a foundational element of art.

Study of a leg (recto), 1524. Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564). Black chalk, stylus; 20.7 x 24.7 cm. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790. © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Everybody draws. While some of us doodle during class or a long meeting, others hone their skills through diligent practice and training. Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) used drawing as a fundamental part of his artistic practice. Before embarking on a monumental fresco or dynamic sculpture, he expressed his ideas through drawing. Working on paper, he experimented with depicting human anatomy, drapery, and architectural forms.

Studies of a left arm and a shoulder (recto), 1515–20. Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475–1564). Red chalk, partly retraced with pen and brown ink; 26.3 x 20.1 cm. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, purchased in 1790. © Teylers Museum, Haarlem

This exhibition’s emphasis on drawing as a means of experimentation and creativity provides a perfect opportunity for visitors to explore. For the duration of the exhibition, the Parker Hannifin Corporation Donor Gallery (North Court Lobby) is transformed into the Drawing Lounge. Here visitors can learn about drawing as a foundational element of art, relax while perusing books related to drawing and Michelangelo, and, on Tuesdays and Sundays from 11:00 to 3:00, attend a free pop-up drawing studio with guest artist Adrian Eisenhower. Adrian teaches at CMA and has taught at the Cleveland School of the Arts, and also runs the Walton Avenue Atelier, a space committed to educating artists and the public in methods of visual representation, with an emphasis on drawing, color, and composition.

Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Upon entering the lounge, visitors are greeted by a wall graphic featuring reproductions of Michelangelo drawings that illustrate the basic elements of drawing: line, shape, value, and mass. Check out this panel that explores line and shape and the ways in which Michelangelo used these elements to construct his drawings.

Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

An area for visitors to display their own drawings made during the weekly pop-up studios is also included.

We felt it was important to encourage visitors to draw in the permanent collection galleries. On your way out of the Drawing Lounge, make sure to grab a Collection Connections Sketchbook and a pencil.

Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Use this sketchbook as a guide to explore the galleries through the lens of a Renaissance apprentice, sketching artworks that inspire you along the way. Here are some tour highlights:

Local Inspiration

Virgin and Child with Angels, 1405. Spinello Aretino (Italian, 1350/52–1410). Tempera and gold on wood panel; framed: 156.5 x 70.5 x 12.5 cm (61 5/8 x 27 3/4 x 4 15/16 in.); unframed: 156.5 x 70.7 cm (61 5/8 x 27 13/16 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1977.145

Location: Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Horvitz Family Gallery (110A)

Apprentices practiced their craft outside the studio, too. Young artists were encouraged to explore the art that decorated the cities they lived in, seeking inspiration from works in churches or other public spaces. This panel from an altarpiece, a devotional painting created for behind the altar of a Christian church, is an example of the type of artwork an apprentice would have seen and copied. Spinello Aretino’s gilded panel depicts the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child, flanked by angels. Michelangelo is known to have studied frescoes by medieval artist Giotto (c. 1266–1337), who also influenced Spinello.

The pointed arch at the top of the altarpiece and the spiraled columns were intended to suggest an architectural space surrounding the painted image. Try drawing these details.

Ancient Anatomy

Herakles Epitrapezios (Hercules of the Table), 1–100. Italy, Roman, (Alexandrian?), 1st Century. Marble; overall: 43.2 cm (17 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1955.50

Location: David and Inez Myers Foundation Gallery (103)

During the Renaissance, a period of new interest in ancient literature, philosophy, and art emerged. In Italy the discovery of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures inspired new generations of artists who regarded these artworks as ideal depictions of the human form. Young students learned how to draw bodies by translating three-dimensional objects into two-dimensional drawings. This statuette depicts the Greek hero Herakles nude and at rest, older but still with idealized musculature. Initially conceived to be viewed on a table, a small statuette like this would have been perfect for Renaissance students to observe a body from multiple angles.

Look closely at this sculpture. Notice its defined muscles, twisting torso, and elevated leg. Try translating these three-dimensional qualities into a two-dimensional drawing.

The exhibition Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, is on view through January 5, 2020 — stop by and see the exhibition and participate in the pop-up studio at the Drawing Lounge.

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