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Thomas Stothard RA, Sketch of a sleeping child

Sketch of a sleeping child

Thomas Stothard RA (1755 - 1834)

RA Collection: Art

Thomas Stothard is celebrated for his designs and illustrations but his life drawings are hardly known. His draughtsmanship has even been dismissed as 'innacurate' because of his habit of working without reference to a model. However, Stothard was clearly accomplished at drawing from life and Mrs Bray, his daughter-in-law and biographer, provided some useful information regarding his methods. Her descriptions of his practice correspond exactly with the evidence provided by this rare group of life drawings which include many small-scale studies of the same model as well as many drawings of the same pose viewed from different angles.

Mrs Bray wrote:

'Stothard's method of study was peculiarly his own; he adopted not the practice so general with the students, to sit down and draw a single figure for six or eight weeks. He would place himself opposite to it, and in a small sketch-book would make a careful outline in pen and ink, about five inches in height. He said that...this method... obliged him well to consider the lines and proportions before they were drawn, and that thus they became strongly impressed upon the memory. He...maintained that an eye and a hand well trained in making pen and ink outlines would be characterised by truth, carefulness, and a good flow of line; in short, would be masterly'.

She continued: 'Having in less than an hour's time thus taken one view of the figure before him, he would change his position so as to command a different view of it; and then, being especially careful to mark the change of contour in his subject, he would begin another sketch, and thus continue to work till he produced seven or eight drawings of the same figure. He frequently remarked, that any one who adopted this method of study would, after a little practice, be surprised by the knowledge they had attained. At the same time, he would by no means have the student neglect light and shade, and rounding well the figure: but truth of outline, in its various forms, was most essential'.

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Object details

Sketch of a sleeping child
Thomas Stothard RA (1755 - 1834)
Object type
Pencil on laid paper

56 mm x 89 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Purchased from
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