|The composition of the Laocoön was thought to be the height
of disegno during the Renaissance. It is complexly arranged,
full of emotional power, and sculpted with incredible skill.
For Renaissance Italians, great art was primarily about disegno, or drawing—but not just the process of drafting in itself. Disegno encompassed the intellectual aspect of an artwork in conjunction with technique. This shift in focus raised the status of the visual arts, which had been until that time considered a trade, to that of literature and music. Disegno became the standard that all great works of art, whether sculpture, painting, or architecture, had in common.
The way to achieve disegno was, however, through drawing, because it provided the foundation on which an artist built a finished work. Becoming an artist known for strong disegno (Michelangelo would have been the team captain) meant starting by drawing from life, then going on to create drawings of Greek and Roman sculptures with an eye toward mastering complex multifigure compositions such as that of the Laocoön.
But even after this exhaustive teaching, an artist doesn’t become a master of disegno. Drawing well wasn’t the end goal; it was the vehicle that carried the artist toward the goal. It allowed for experimentation, invention, and sharpening one’s mind. In that way, a great draftsman was deemed omnipotent, supreme because of his or her abilities to conceive, to create, and—with the skills they attained through their drawing studies and practice—to execute their vision. Art is a feat of the imagination, not observation, and drawing allows for intellectual innovation. The execution of such innovation is how great and lasting art is made.
|Lucian Freud is a modern master, and one who used his ample drawing skills to create works that intend to make viewers uncomfortable and slightly disturbed. The disegno of Girl with Roses lies in the variety of texture and pattern presented and how the tight composition has a tenseness to it that seems to push out to every corner of the canvas.|
Although centuries have lessened the godlike status of draftsmen, disegno and all it encompasses is still the bedrock of an artist’s practice. In Design & Composition with Ian Roberts, you can see how great artists conceive compelling works, what techniques and skills they use to bring their ideas to fruition, and how to master those skills for yourself. With this resource you can stand among the likes of Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli, learning just like they did all those centuries ago.