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Charcoal Drawings

The tradition of charcoal drawing traces back to at least 26,000 B.C., evidenced by a rock fragment bearing a charcoal design discovered in a Northern Australia rock shelter. By the 15th century, artists frequently employed charcoal to create preparatory sketches of large-scale murals and frescos. Charcoal can be painted over without changing the color or tone of the overlaid paint, which explains why artists have employed it for centuries to create preparatory sketches before embarking on larger scale oil paintings.

French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas would often layer pastels over an initial charcoal sketch, a method that he utilized in the production of his famous "Blue Dancers" in 1899. During the High Renaissance (16th century), charcoal became the medium of choice among caricature artists. They transferred charcoal dust onto the support through paper elaborately incised with tiny holes.

Charcoal remains a popular medium among contemporary artists. Artists including William Kentridge and Robert Longo continue to explore the expressive possibilities of this age old medium in the current era.


Quick Facts

  • Japanese Sumi-e artists predominantly use bamboo charcoal in their artworks
  • Charcoal tends to be a fugitive pigment unless it is sprayed with a fixative, which is generally a resin dissolved in alcohol
  • Charcoal is typically created by slowly burning twigs of the linden or willow trees until they are reduced to carbon

Recommended Items at Auction

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Chema Cobo, 1952, 2 Works: Untitled
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Chema Cobo, 1952, 2 Works: Untitled
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF600- CHF800
CHF5001 Bid
Klaudia Schifferle, 1955, Untitled
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Klaudia Schifferle, 1955, Untitled
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF600- CHF1,000
CHF5000 Bids
Max Hari, 1950, Untitled
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Max Hari, 1950, Untitled
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF200- CHF400
CHF1800 Bids
Mario Comensoli, 1922-1993, Studie (Study)
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Mario Comensoli, 1922-1993, Studie (Study)
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF800- CHF1,200
CHF7000 Bids
Nigel Hall, 1943, Drawing no. 237
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Nigel Hall, 1943, Drawing no. 237
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF800- CHF1,200
CHF7000 Bids
Louis Goerg, 1895-1950, Untitled
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Louis Goerg, 1895-1950, Untitled
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF400- CHF600
CHF3600 Bids
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 1986
Dec 03, 11:00 AM CET
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 1986
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €10,000- €15,000
€7,5000 Bids
Not Vital, 1948, Portfolio. Poesias rumantschas cun disegns da Not Vital
Nov 30, 6:00 PM CET
Not Vital, 1948, Portfolio. Poesias rumantschas cun disegns da Not Vital
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF2,000- CHF3,000
CHF1,8000 Bids
Rodolphe-Théophile Bosshard, 1889-1960, Femme nue (Female Nude)
Nov 29, 6:00 PM CET
Rodolphe-Théophile Bosshard, 1889-1960, Femme nue (Female Nude)
by Germann Auction House Ltd
Est: CHF500- CHF900
CHF4400 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Charcoal Drawings


Germann Auction House Ltd

Germann Auction House Ltd

Kunsthaus Lempertz KG

Kunsthaus Lempertz KG