Benjamin West.jpg

Head of a Man

Benjamin West

American (1738-1820)
Head of a Man (1778)
Charcoal and white chalk on paper
Museum Purchase, 1968.17.a

HenryOssawa.jpg

Study of a Sick Man

Henry Ossawa Tanner

American (1859-1937)
Study of a Sick Man
Charcoal on paper
Alumni Annual Giving Program, 1968.21

Jacques-Louis.jpg

Male Nude Standing in Profile

Jacques-Louis David 

French (1748-1825)
Male Nude Standing in Profile (1822)
Charcoal with white and black chalk on tan paper
Museum Purchase, 1971.9

Charcoal is made from willow or vine twigs heated at a high temperature without oxygen. The process produces a charred stick that when pressed to paper leaves behind microscopic particles. The medium is easily manipulated, enabling artists to make both marks and corrections quickly and rendering charcoal ideal for sketches as well as highly finished drawings. 

Traditional academic instruction in 18th and 19th century Europe emphasized the depiction of the human form, particularly the male nude. These three drawings sample different approaches to the subject, from Henry Ossawa Tanner’s quick sketch to Benjamin West’s more articulated study and Jacques-Louis David’s finished drawing. Drawing from life remains an important component of instruction in studio art today.