Underdrawing – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is Underdrawing?

Underdrawing refers to the initial sketch or outline that is created on a surface before the actual artwork is executed. It serves as a guide for the artist, helping to establish the composition, proportions, and overall structure of the piece.

This preparatory stage is typically done using a variety of drawing materials such as graphite, charcoal, ink, or chalk. The underdrawing may be fully visible or partially obscured by subsequent layers of paint or other media.

Importance of Underdrawing in Art Conservation

The underdrawing plays a crucial role in art conservation as it provides valuable insights into the artist’s creative process and intentions. By studying the underdrawing, conservators can gain a deeper understanding of the artwork’s history and development.

Additionally, the underdrawing can help conservators identify any changes or alterations made by the artist during the creation of the artwork. This information is essential for making informed decisions about the treatment and restoration of the piece.

Techniques and Materials Used for Underdrawing

Various techniques can be used to create underdrawings, including hatching, cross-hatching, stippling, and contour drawing. Artists may also use tracing paper or grids to transfer a preliminary sketch onto the final surface.

As for materials, artists often use soft pencils, charcoal sticks, or ink pens for underdrawing. These materials allow for easy manipulation and correction, enabling artists to refine their ideas before committing to the final composition.

Detecting and Analyzing Underdrawing in Artwork

Conservators use a range of imaging techniques to detect and analyze underdrawings in artwork. These techniques include infrared reflectography, X-radiography, and ultraviolet fluorescence photography.

By examining these images, conservators can identify hidden or obscured underdrawings, as well as any changes or revisions made by the artist. This information is crucial for developing a comprehensive conservation plan for the artwork.

Challenges in Preserving Underdrawing during Restoration

Preserving the underdrawing during restoration can be challenging due to the delicate nature of the materials used and the potential for damage during cleaning or inpainting. Conservators must carefully balance the need to reveal and document the underdrawing with the risk of causing harm to the artwork.

Additionally, the presence of overpaint or previous restoration work can complicate the preservation of the underdrawing. Conservators must carefully assess the condition of the artwork and develop a tailored treatment plan to ensure the underdrawing is protected.

Case Studies of Successful Underdrawing Preservation in Art Conservation

Several notable case studies demonstrate successful preservation of underdrawings in art conservation. For example, the restoration of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” revealed intricate underdrawings that provided valuable insights into the artist’s process.

Similarly, the conservation of Rembrandt’s self-portraits uncovered hidden underdrawings that shed light on the artist’s technique and style. These case studies highlight the importance of preserving underdrawings in artwork to enhance our understanding and appreciation of the artist’s work.