Drawing Inspiration: Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)

A chalk drawing of a woman
Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Woman Seen from the Back, c.1715/16. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Woman Seen from the Back, c.1715/16

The French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau made hundreds of sketches, from life, of models in various poses. Before starting work on a painting, he would look through his sketches and select suitable figure drawings to recreate. He often used the same study in more than one painting. He was a master of the technique known as aux trois crayons, the use of a combination of red, black and white chalks. Under his influence, this technique became very popular in eighteenth-century France.

This drawing of a woman focuses on the folds and creases of her voluminous dress. Watteau used graphite (pencil) and red chalk on paper to capture the way the light falls on the fabric. Look at the different types of lines he used to build up the drawing: some thick and parallel, others layered over each other in a cross-hatch pattern to create shadows.

Activity idea: Find a piece of material at home (a towel, a jumper etc.) and draw it. Try to use different types of lines to capture the shadows in the folds. Notice where the light hits the material – how might you represent that light in your drawing?

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