I travelled down to London on Saturday for The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts. Train and tube travel has been nightmarish lately due to engineering works on the major lines, but my day out was a full and rewarding one, and the exhibition was a joy – from Monet’s early caricatures to his black crayon drawings of cattle and farmhouses, and the vibrant yet subtle pastel studies he made of sunsets and twilight.
I was struck by this comment from one of Monet’s contemporaries, quoted in the Gallery Guide: “Every scrap of paper, no matter how small, was drawn upon with country scenes, tiny seascapes and fishermen. Every sheet of paper that came into his hands was destined for a drawing.” What better inspiration could a would-be compulsive sketcher hope to find? Monet, it is clear, was passionate about sketching, and in addition to the 80 works on display, this exhibition also makes many pages of his sketchbooks available for browsing in digital form.
With me I had a very basic sketching kit of black Profipen, watercolour bijou box and credit-card-sized set of 12 coloured pencils; over the course of the day, I covered two pages of my hand*book journal, sketching anything that took my fancy – from my train ticket, to the pattern on the dress of the passenger next to me, to a couple of Monet’s pastel drawings, to the evening sky outside Stowmarket. After an hour and a half of wandering lost around Aldgate/Whitechapel towards the end of the afternoon, I also managed a browse round Atlantis Art Materials, where I picked up a couple of drawing pads and some handmade papers.