Works on Paper Study Group - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Works on Paper Study Group

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Works on Paper Study Group


The Works on Paper Study Group is dedicated to exploring the creative and material processes and practices involved in the production, display, and collecting of works on paper. Our goal is to enable individual members to develop a deeper understanding of all aspects of the graphic arts through structured first-hand study of these works, and through discussions with experts in the field. We explore questions which are object-based as well as theoretical, ranging from the identification and appreciation of techniques and materials in works on paper, to the more conceptual investigations of the graphic mark-making as a discourse and a form of visual communication.

The group holds two meetings every term, with one event generally taking place at the Institute and one at a different venue in London or the South East. Each meeting has a thematic focus, exploring topics like the cultural meaning and function of red chalk, methods of attribution, or strategies of collection building.

Activities are organised by the team of Courtauld graduate students who work as Print Room Assistants in the Prints and Drawings Study Room of the Courtauld Institute.

Dr. Ketty Gottardo, Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings, is the group’s supporting patron. For the year 2017/2018, the group is convened by Camilla Pietrabissa, who specialises in Early Modern drawings, and Rachel Hapoienu, Drawings Cataloguer for the IMAF Project. 

Membership is open to PhD students, early career academics, and early career art world professionals with an interest in the graphic arts. To join the Works on Paper Study Group, please e-mail:, including a very brief outline of your specific interests in works on paper.

Event summaries

Event 1: Preview and Curator’s Tour of ‘Botticelli and the Treasures of the Hamilton Collection’

16 February 2016

Organised by Tatiana Bisolatti

Accompanied by the exhibition curators Dr Stephanie Buck and Dr Dagmar Korbacher, the group explored the process of selection and display of thirty drawings by Botticelli for Dante’s Divine Comedy shown alongside a selection of illuminated manuscripts including the Hamilton Bible. Discussion raised issues of the collection and sale of the Botticelli works made famous when Lord Hamilton relinquished them in 1882. Our conversations with the curators also considered the unique curatorial challenges faced when exhibiting works on paper in a variety of formats and according to the demands of conservation.

Event 2: Collecting Contemporary Prints at the Victoria & Albert Museum

18 May 2016

Organised by Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings

On a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum Print Room, Gill Sanders, Senior Curator of Prints at the V&A, selected for the group a set of recent acquisitions of contemporary prints. Sanders facilitated discussion of the challenges of collecting prints within major national museums in the twenty-first century. Ranging an appreciation of practical issues such as budgets and storage to aesthetic concerns regarding the representation of different printing techniques within the collection, the session shed light on the professional and institutional processes at work behind the public gallery walls.

Event 3: Questions of Authorship: A preview of the Old Master and British Drawings and Watercolours sale at Christie’s

2 July 2016

Organised by Austeja Mackelaite

Accompanied by Jonathan den Otter, Junior Specialist of Old Master Drawings at Christie’s, the group previewed a selection of works due for sale at Christie’s. In his presentation Jonathan shared his insights on the practical challenges faced by drawings specialists working in the environment of the auction house, including the attribution of unsigned or previously unpublished works. The session also considered the general methodological concerns surrounding connoisseurship today.

Event 4: Making Places in Drawings and Prints: Three perspectives

20 October 2016

Organised by Camilla Pietrabissa

How do artists and architects render place on paper? How is the abstract space of the sheet drawn, inscribed, or handled in order to visualise a real or imagined place? What are the practical tools and the technical devices used to evoke the experience of cities, gardens or rural areas? In raising such questions, this event aimed to create a dialogue on the ways in which drawings and prints have been used as tools of knowledge, invention, and design. The program included three case studies for discussion: architectural drawings which re-imagined public space in France around the turn of the nineteenth century, presented to the group through a guided tour of the exhibition in the Courtauld’s Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery A Civic Utopia: Architecture and the City in France 1765-1837 by its curator Nicolas Olsberg; the drawings and prints of Kew Gardens whose production was overseen by William Chambers, discussed in a paper presented by Matthew Storey (Historical Royal Palaces); and the drawings of the vernacular architecture and picturesque sites in the Parisian countryside, discussed in a paper presented by Camilla Pietrabisa (Courtauld).

Event 5: Curating Drawings: Choices and Logistics

24 February 2017

Organised by Imogen Tedbury

In a private tour of the new Courtauld Gallery display ‘Reading Drawings’, Dr. Rachel Hapoienu, curator of the display & IMAF Project Drawings Cataloguer for the Gallery, narrated the curatorial process behind the exhibition. The visit was followed by a session in the Prints and Drawings Study Room, where we looked at those artworks that were considered for inclusion but ultimately cut. Through discussing the full arc of the exhibition from inception and initial research to realisation in the gallery space we learnt much from Dr. Hapoienu’s problem-solving selections as well as the challenges she faced in bringing to life works through marginal inscriptions and collector’s marks.

Event 6: On drawing style: rethinking Flaxman’s line

19 April 2017

Organised by Camilla Pietrabissa

With George Richards, Curatorial Assistant at the UCL Art Museums, the group viewed a selection of twenty drawings by John Flaxman (1755-1826). We spent two hours in UCL’s Strang Print Room, considering the invention of the ‘Neoclassical outline drawing’. The visit took the form of an eighteenth-century erudite conversation, starting with 15 minutes of silent examination of the works. There was no formal presentation on Flaxman, and the group was encouraged to share their impressions based on the sustained observation of the drawings. UCL holds a preeminent collection of Flaxman’s work, which provided an ideal foundation for a discussion of the development of his drawing style and its relationship with other mediums, primarily ceramics and prints.

Event 7: A visit to ‘Raphael: The Drawings’ at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

13 June 2017

Organised by Albert Godycki

To round off the academic year the group travelled to Oxford to visit the Ashmolean Museum’s major exhibition of Raphael’s drawings. The show’s curator, Angelamaria Aceto, introduced and guided the group around the exhibition triggering a lively discussion of Raphael’s development through his career and the range of process at the draughtsman’s disposal. Metal point, chalks, graphite, and pen and ink were all well represented in masterworks that proved a fitting conclusion the group’s activity over the past year.

Event 8: Annual visit to the London sale at Christie’s

3 July 2017

Organised by Albert Godycki

Led by Christie’s experts Jonathan den Otter and Annabel Kishor, the group had the opportunity to discuss the drawings on view before the sale.

Event 9: Graphic works by Frederick Walker

6 November 2017

Organised by Rachel Hapoienu

This short seminar in the Courtauld’s Prints and Drawings Room was the occasion to discuss the works of Frederick Walker (1840-1875) and other artists of the period held in the collection. Donato Esposito, who recently published the first comprehensive study on Walker and the group of the Idyllists (London, 2017), led the seminar in conversation with Rachel Sloan.


Event 10: Celebrating The Business of Prints at the British Museum

Organised by Camilla Pietrabissa

12 December 2017

To mark its tenth event, the group organised a visit to the landmark exhibition on the history of European printmaking at the British Museum (Room 90), with its curator Antony Griffiths, who was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the museum for 20 years. Antony explained the relation between his comprehensive book The print before photography (published in 2017) and the exhibition; then, the group focussed on the section ‘Collecting Prints’, which made a compelling visual argument about the meaning of prints for collectors throughout the Early Modern period.

Event 11: Medieval works on paper and parchment at Sam Fogg

Organised by Charlotte Wytema

19 February 2018

Focussing on medieval works on paper and parchment from Western Europe, the group visited Sam Fogg, a renowned London gallery specialised in the art of the Middle Ages. Medieval specialist Matthew Reeves showed us a selection of medieval illuminated manuscripts, as well as fifteenth-century drawings from the Southern Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain, and the group discussed the challenges of attribution and the art market for medieval works on paper and parchment. Hereafter we had the special opportunity to carefully handle and examine the pages of an illuminated manuscript under the circumstances it could have been created and viewed: in candlelight.


Event 12: Salon du Dessin in Paris

Organised by Camilla Pietrabissa and Ketty Gottardo

21-23 March 2018

The group travelled to Paris to visit the Salon du Dessin in the Palais Brongniart. On the same occasion, we visited the fair of contemporary drawings, held in the Carreau du Temple, the Fondation Custodia, and a private collection of French drawings.


Event 13: Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: The Satirical Colour Lithographs of Gaganendranath Tagore at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Organised by Lukas Hall

20 April 2018

Dr. Emilia Terracciano, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, led a group discussion about a number of works on paper by the Bengali artist Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) in the South & South Asian collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, courtesy of V&A Curator Divia Patel and Assistant Curator Anita Nathwani. A selection of anti-colonial satirical colour lithographs and ink and watercolour drawings were considered in conjunction with the chapter on Tagore from Emilia’s book Art and Emergency: Modernism in Twentieth-Century India (I. B. Tauris, 2018).

Event 14: A Preview of the Old Master and British Drawings & Watercolours Sale at Christie’s

Organised by Lukas Hall and Charlotte Wytema

29 June 2018

On a visit to Christie’s, Jonathan den Otter, Associate Specialist in Old Master Drawings, introduced the group to a selection of works from the 3 July sale, sharing some of his insights from researching and cataloguing the drawings. In order to learn more about the practical challenges faced by drawings specialists in attribution and dating specific works, as well as the dilemma of recognising possible forgeries, Jonathan led us through a round of ‘Fake or Fortune’, putting our connoisseurship to the test. Jonathan’s presentation was followed by that of Tim Schmelcher, International Specialist in Prints, who showed us the rare first state of Rembrandt’s Ecce Homo drypoint, about to be sold in the Old Masters Evening Sale on 5 July.

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