Beginning in the 17th century, instructional drawing books democratized the practice of drawing in Europe, ...

... allowing aspiring artists to learn at home and at their own pace.

Until the 20th century, if you wanted to become a professional painter, sculptor, or printmaker, you had to learn to draw first. And until the early 17th century, learning to draw meant entering an artist’s workshop — often as a child — copying the master’s sketches and drawing from plaster casts and live models. Students drew under the supervision and authority of the master. But all of that changed in 1608, when the Italian painter and printmaker Odoardo Fialetti published the first instructional drawing guide, or drawing book. Fialetti’s book enabled people to learn to draw without the aid of a master, tutor, or fine arts academy. A new exhibition, The Master of Paper: Drawing Books from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries at Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado, explores how this and other drawing books revolutionized the study of drawing and spread it to new places throughout Europe.

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