An exhibition visit last weekend and a previous post about sketchbooks have prompted me to write this short extension to the A tale of two sketchbooks post of a couple of weeks ago.
Last weekend I visited the Mondrian exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. In the museum, as well as this blockbuster show there was a smaller exhibition of work by the Haagse School, a group of Dutch artists working in the Dutch capital at the end of the 19th century. There was a good collection of interesting paintings but actually what caught my attention most were two walls in the exhibition that had been given over solely to displaying the sketchbooks of some of the artists involved.
These small, and very intimate glances into the working process of the likes of Breitner and Israels were quite captivating. It is the sort of exhibition display that I would like to bring my pupils at school to see. Direct, small scale and personal, these are visual documents that somehow bridge the gap between the artist and the finished work. You see a visual connection with the finished paintings, but also, a much more apparent and obvious presence of the artist themselves. These are after all books that lived in their pockets or bags, objects that travelled around with them and were a sort of personal forum for the development of ideas.
Sketchbooks are important, we can learn much from them. In many ways, it is a shame that they are so rarely of display in our museum. There are places online where examples can be found and pages turned through, such as here.
There are also places such as The Sketchbook Project where the drawing books of lesser known artists and creative people are receiving an online place where others can turn through the digital pages. I’ll certainly be drawing the attention of my pupils to this source of documentation of the creative process.