The Primacy of Drawing Histories and Theories of Practice Deanna Petherbridge

Publication date:
25 Mar 2010
Yale University Press
524 pages: 279 x 241mm
324 illus.
Sales territories:

This important and original book affirms the significance of drawing as visual thinking in western art from the fifteenth century to the present through an examination of its practice: how and why it is made, how it relates to other forms of visual production and theories of art, and what artists themselves have written about it. The author herself is a practicing artist, and through scrutinizing a wide range of drawings in various media, she confirms a long historical commitment to the primal importance of sketching in generating ideas and problem solving, examines the production of autonomous drawings as gifts or for pleasure, and traces the importance of the life-class and theories of drawing in the training of artists until well into the twentieth century.

In the final chapters she address the changing role of drawing in relation to contemporary practice, and its importance for conceptual artists working in a non-hierarchical manner with a multiplicity of practices, techniques and technologies.Quoting the writings of artists from Vasari to Reynolds, Delacroix to Ruskin, Klee and Kandinsky to Beuys, Petherbridge proposes that drawing constitutes a discrete, if engaged, discourse within visual practice, with its own internal economy, its own typologies, codes, systems, materials and strategies of making; its own markets and collectors, its own power relations and self-representations. As well as analyzing specific works by great draughtsmen such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso, close attention is paid to those artists traditionally regarded as 'minor' because of their graphic elaboration or involvement with caricature and play, as well as to the important contribution of women artists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The book is a response to the vibrant rediscovery of drawing as significant practice in studios, exhibitions and art schools, and proposes an ambitious and novel agenda for the study and enjoyment of drawing.

Deanna Petherbridge is a practising artist. She was formerly Professor of Drawing at the Royal College of Art and is now Visiting Professor of Drawing at the University of the Arts London.

"Petherbridge’s 500-page study should convince anyone of drawing’s centrality, its often apparent simplicity and also its deep mysteriousness. Hers is a great book written by someone who both draws and thinks seriously about an activity in which it is often almost impossible to tell what was made 500 years or five minutes ago." -Adrian Searle, The Guardian

"I'll buy it, gladly."—Marina Warner, The Observer

"With its wealth of superb reproductions and deep, wide vision of art history, The Primacy of Drawing stands as a unique resource and source of pleasure." -Julian Bell, Times Literary Supplement

"I cannot emphasize enough both the wealth of information and insights that the book contains." -Lino Mannocci, Burlington Magazine

"It would be quite wrong to call The Primacy of Drawing notable, or outstanding even – far more impressive than that, it wholly redefines what the study of drawing means in the 21st century." -Tim Wilxcox, Apollo Magazine

"Petherbridge looks at individual works with the practised, analytical eye of an artist… It may be said with confidence that there has never been a more comprehensive study of drawing." John McDonald, The Sydney Morning Herald

"The art book of the year is The Primacy of Drawing by Deanna Petherbridge. This is less a work of ready reference than a book meant to be read, the history and analysis of a skill developed in the age of myths and now de-skilled in an age of high technology." -Brian Sewell, London Evening Standard