Tate Britain  Clore Galleries
18 June – 26 August 2001

Thomas Gainsborough and Richard Wilson are two of the artists whose drawings feature in a new exhibition at Tate Britain. Drawing Materials and Techniques: Works on Paper from the Oppé Collection 17001850 provides a unique opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the drawing materials used by British artists. It is the second Tate exhibition focusing exclusively on works from the Oppé Collection, which was purchased by Tate in 1996.

Rather than placing emphasis on the artist, or the subject and content of the drawings, the exhibition looks closely at the materials and techniques used to create them. Most works in the exhibition will be on display for the first time, and visitors will have a rare opportunity to gain a broader knowledge of the work of British masters such as Gainsborough, Wilson, Alexander Cozens, Francis Towne and George Romney. A number of lesser-known British artists also feature in the exhibition.

The exhibition will be arranged in sections according to the medium used and drawing materials featured include graphite, chalk, charcoal and inks. Working recipes by artists including Cozens and Gainsborough will also be revealed. Technical instruments will be analysed in depth and include drawing aids such as the camera obscura, which has been used by artists from Jan Vermeer to David Hockney, and eighteenth and nineteenth-century pencils and quill pens, including those from the Reeves Collection. There will also be information about the methods used by present day conservators to identify drawing media.

The Oppé Collection is a famous collection of British watercolours and drawings formed by Paul Oppé (1878–1957), a pioneering scholar in this field. It was acquired by Tate in 1996 with support from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Art Collections Fund. It comprises some 3,000 works which date from the last years of the sixteenth century through to the early 1900s. Though this collection includes a huge variety of subjects including figure drawings, portraits and studies for paintings, the overwhelming bias is towards landscape, reflecting the extraordinary flowering of the British watercolour school from 1750-1850.

A pamphlet providing information about drawing materials and techniques will be available to coincide with the exhibition, which is curated by Carolyn Frisa, Briony Pemberton and Lisa Psarianos, Paper Conservators at Tate.