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Ink Drawings

Ink drawings are an integral part of the artistic traditions in many cultures. Artists prize ink for its ability to capture intricate detail, as well as its stability as a drawing medium. It is employed in a variety of genres from landscapes to cityscapes and portraiture to abstraction. Ink drawings are very popular, as ink offers the distinct advantages of being a readily available and inexpensive medium.

During the Renaissance period, artists such as Fra Angelico and Leonardo Da Vinci created preparatory sketches using ink before embarking on large-scale frescoes. These drawings allowed the artists to determine the composition, proportions, and light effects before committing the work to oil paint.

Ink drawings have also been the primary medium for traditional landscape and calligraphy art throughout Asia. These drawings were typically executed using animal hair dipped in ink. Unlike oil paint, ink dries nearly instantaneously after being applied to paper, and can remain relatively unaltered for centuries, especially as ink and paper technologies have become more advanced.

Quick Facts

  • Iron gall was the most common ink during the Renaissance period. It was created by mixing gall nuts with iron sulfates and gum arabic to produce a deep black pigment
  • While Renaissance and Baroque era ink drawings were initially black, most have faded over the centuries to a dark brown
  • The ink drawing "Portrait of a Young Man, Head and Shoulders, Wearing a Cap" attributed to Piero del Pollaiuolo sold at Sotheby’s in 2012 for nearly $1.4 million

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