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Historical drawings chronicle important events so that they may be remembered by posterity. They are valued as both historical documents that capture a certain moment and also as fine art objects prized for their innate aesthetic. Often, they are embellished by an artist's dramatic flair.
While historical drawings are typically associated with epic events in the political and social histories of various cultures, their origins can be traced back to the dawn of civilization. They embody the fundamental desire to commemorate important occurrences, preserving them for personal recollection and posterity. Artists feel the need to capture historic moments, whether a particularly abundant hunt in ancient times or the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
In the 19th century, the French government was the primary patron of the arts and considered the genre of historical paintings to be the most prestigious of all. Artists such as Eugene Delacroix created history drawings as preparatory sketches for immense oil paintings, including "The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius." Drawings by Delacroix and other 19th century European masters continue to appear for sale today and offer a superb way for collectors to own not only a work by an exalted artist, but a reminder of a moment in world history.
Contemporary artists like William Kentridge continue to create historical drawings that reflect on important current events. Kentridge draws scenes from his native country of South Africa
Delacroix's "Two Greek soldiers in a clearing in a forest" sold at Christie's in 2013 for more than $300,000
Historical drawings allow collectors to own artworks of renowned artists at a fraction of the price of their paintings at auction