ART REVIEW: "Hatched! Creating Form with Line"-J. Paul Getty Center

Hatched! Creating Form with Line, located in the West Pavilion at the J. Paul Getty Center, is a delightful little exhibition on the first floor that provides an excellent primer on techniques of drawing, geared towards education newcomers to art rather than connoisseurs or artists.   It contains about 25 drawings all from the museum's permanent collection, and is devoted to exploring four major types of line work in drawing: parallel hatching, contour hatching, crosshatching, and stippling.  Parallel hatching refers to shading or description of form using small parallel lines; contour hatching refers to the use of stokes often used to enhance edges or create rounded forms; crosshatching refers to crisscrossing lines often used to create shadows and provide contrast; and stippling refers to making tiny repeated dots on a page with the tip of the pen, pencil, brush, et cetera.

There is a good amount of material variety on display: from rough chalk sketches to finished chalk drawings, to quick pen and ink impressions to highly detailed drawings in the same medium.   Many of the works are either portrait sketches or figure studies, but a few are landscapes or deal with religious subjects.
Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Joseph Roulin.  

Leonardo da Vinci's Caricature of a Man with Bushy Hair, dating from c. 1495, is a tiny early delight. The accompanying blurb calls attention to his left-handed parallel hatching, contrasting it with the more common right-handed hatching (since most people are right-handed, artists included).  Depending on whether you are right or left handed, you draw strokes in different ways. Right-handed artists will tend to create hatching lines from the bottom left to the top right, while left-handed artists will hatch from the top left to the bottom right.  It is a small stylistic detail that is impossible to ignore once you've noticed it; I found myself comparing the stroke direction in this work to nearly all of the other pieces on display.

Vincent Van Gogh's Portrait of Joseph Roulin, dating from 1888, displays a remarkable commitment to capturing the textures of the man's beard and clothes with a combination of parallel hatching, crosshatching and stippling.  This drawing proudly revels in its flatness and in the quirks of pen and ink, rather than trying to disguise the medium and create an illusionistic portrait. 

One of the loveliest drawings in this exhibit, and one of the best I've ever seen, takes a different approach, choosing to devote its energy to creating both surface effect and realistic depth.  Pierre-Paul Prud'hon's 1800 Study of a Female Nude uses black-and-white chalk on blue-tinted paper to create the feel of light and shadow on naked flesh.  From afar the illusion is unquestionable and convincing; up close you can appreciate the intricacy and care allotted to each thin line of chalk, which the artist applied using parallel and contour hatching techniques. 
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, Study of a Female Nude.

Charles Samuel Keene's 1984 Self Portrait is a small gem amongst more well-known names in this room because of the way it uses pen and ink to create a chiaroscuro effect with dramatic light and shadow, adding a sense of surprise and mystery to the then-twenty-two year old artist's self-portrait. Lastly, the male figure from Domenico Maria Canuti's Sheet of Studies from 1669-71, boldly rendered in red chalk, has wonderful motion and line in the seated figure.
Domenico Maria Canuti, Sheet of Studies.

Most of the works are Italian and all are European, which is a bit of an oversight on the part of the museum.  Could not the Getty have rounded up a few Japanese or Chinese drawings from its vast archives, or would their inclusion have skewed the neat categorizations of drawing styles?  While the exhibit is small in scope, I would have liked to see how the Getty categorized and juxtaposed non-Western drawings within this little primer of linework.

For readers interested in learning about the craft of art-making itself, Hatched! provides a good introduction to drawing techniques.  It is on view until June 1st.

This review was published first at Fresh Paint Magazine here.


  1. excellent little review for a nice little exhibit! I had forgotten that you had seen this while we were there. :)


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