CAST DRAWING
Artists & Illustrators|December 2020
Drawing from plaster casts is an important step between copying 2D artworks and working from life. AL GURY explores the history of the practice and offers tips to try
AL GURY

My first experience of walking into the Cast Halls of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia as a student was accompanied by the feeling that I had walked into the Renaissance. Though I had yet to understand the uses of that fine collection of early plaster casts, I felt as if I was in a space that encouraged reason, reflection and hope as a young artist.

As the first academy of art in the United States, conceived of as early as the 1790s and chartered in 1805, the drawing curriculum at PAFA incorporates the concepts and tools of cast drawing as part of a solid grounding for the artist to this day. The founders’ first act was to purchase fine casts from Paris and Florence for the teaching of drawing. That historic collection is an integral part of the teaching of drawing and form at PAFA today. Cast drawing remains a source and support of critical thinking and practical visual tools.

One of the earliest references to cast drawing as a tool for training artists was made in Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting. Though scholarly debate and speculation suggests that Leonardo may have founded the first Academy of Art in Milan during his lifetime (he died in 1519), the first formal Academy of Art – the Accademia del Disegno – was created in Florence by Georgio Vasari in 1561. Followed rapidly by the founding of numerous academies, royal academies and state-sponsored schools of art in Europe and the United States, cast drawing was always an integral part of the art school curricula until well into the 19th century.

Drawing was considered the centrepiece of all art training, along with other studies in perspective, mathematics, art history and philosophy. Cast drawing, or “drawing from the antique”, was an important step in the training of fine artists; it followed the copying of drawings and engravings yet came before drawing from live models.

Fine castings in plaster of great ancient Greco-Roman or Renaissance sculptures were acquired from master casters in Florence, Rome and Paris to adorn everything from small ateliers to royal academies.

Museums also encouraged art students to draw from their fine collections of plaster casts. These collections, more economical to procure than originals, whether in a school or in a museum, provided beautiful examples from which art students and amateurs alike could draw and study.

For the art student, cast drawing was considered a primary way to understand the whole “effect” (overall qualities) of a form, and to analyse and understand light and shade, proportion, structural relationships, line quality and gestural movement. The cast also provided a safe transition to the drawing of the live model and understanding the complex relationships in a living body. Cast drawing provided a practical vehicle for the exploration of drawing media and methods as well.

Figural groupings of casts, both freestanding and in relief, taught lessons in composition, perspective and the interrelations between figures in a narrative image.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ARTISTS & ILLUSTRATORSView All

Mary Newcomb

This self-confessed “country artist” developed a cult following for her post-war paintings of everyday life. KATIE MCCABE revisits the inspirations behind her art

5 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Mark Entwisle

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition winner talks to REBECCA BRADBURY about being a frustrated oil painter and working in his “man cave” garden studio

6 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

LANDSCAPE painting

In the first of a three-part series on composing paintings, AL GURY begins by introducing a more responsive approach to landscapes with his 15-step guide to success

7 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Reflections

Shiny and see-through surfaces are a daunting challenge to replicate, so the Pastel Society’s LIZ BALKWILL has set an exercise that will help you simplify the process

6 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Masters at work

Exploring the workspaces of Old Masters and modern artists is a great way to learn about their lives and their craft. We picked out 12 of the best that you can visit

10+ mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Fresh Paint

Inspiring new artworks, straight off the easel

5 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Drawing Fur

Wildlife artist JASON MORGAN has spent more than 20 years perfecting his technique for rendering animal fur. Discover his simple, three-stage approach with stunning results

6 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Light and Shade

Finding variety in repeated forms is the key to creating interesting pictures.FABIO CEMBRANELLI shows you how with a gorgeous wisteria-covered doorway in France

6 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

FFIONA LEWIS

A new studio has brought new challenges and big opportunities for this architectturned-artist as she scales up to make her largest and most ambitious paintings yet

7 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021

Back to DEMO future

Short of inspiration during lockdown, MATT JEANES needed a new challenge. He turned to vintage photographs and tried to add some fresh colour to forgotten images of the past

4 mins read
Artists & Illustrators
February 2021
RELATED STORIES

bold and beautiful

WHAT WILL HAPPEN • Liam receives shocking news. • Thomas makes a heartfelt apology to Hope. • Steffy is torn about divulging the truth when Finn opens up to her about his desire for their future.

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
January 11, 2021

BIDEN PLEDGES TO REJOIN PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

“TODAY, THE TRUMP Administration officially left the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” tweeted President-elect Joe Biden on November 4, 2020. “And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

2 mins read
Reason magazine
February 2021

AS LEADERS SET FRESH CLIMATE GOALS, BIDEN PLEDGES US SUPPORT

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency, as world leaders staged a virtual gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the international pact aimed at curbing global warming.

4 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #477

B&B: CONFLICT WITH ZOE AND PARIS

Though she was initially glad to see Paris, Zoe feels it’s time for her sib to move on.

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
December 28, 2020

HER TIME TO SHINE!

Up Close & Personal - Beverly Hills, Oct. 27

1 min read
Star
November 23, 2020

CAN THIS AI HELP SMOKERS QUIT?

While COVID-19 remains an occupying force in our world, and a viable vaccine is still out of reach, dealing with the pandemic comes down to mitigating health risks while coping with stress. If you’re a smoker, that’s going to be tough on both accounts. This isn’t the Mad Men era; everyone knows the risks of tobacco use, but cessation of addictive substances isn’t easy.

7 mins read
PC Magazine
December 2020

Brand Power - How To Win Friends and Influencer People

Shaun Neff builds the hottest brands for the hottest people, including Kendall Jenner, Shay Mitchell, and Millie Bobby Brown. His secret to creating a hit: It’s all about the vibe.

10+ mins read
Entrepreneur
Startups Fall - Winter 2020

DIAMOND WHITE JOINS B&B

The Forrester Creations team meets Zoe’s younger sister, Paris Buckingham, who breezes into Los Angeles this week. According to her portrayer, the siblings couldn’t be more different.

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
November 09, 2020

The Guillotine Mystique

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION HAS LONG INSPIRED PROGRESSIVE RADICALS READY FOR CHANGE AT ANY COST.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
December 2020

CHRONICLES of CRIME

THE MILLENIUM SERIES

2 mins read
Casual Game Insider
Fall 2020