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Journal > Volumes > 35 (2004) / 3 (Autumn)
Breaking the Ice to Invention: Henry Peacham’s The Art of Drawing (1606)
L. E. Semler
University of Sydney

Far from being a naively provincial document in the history of art treatises, Henry Peacham’s The Art of Drawing (1606) deserves credit for introducing English readers to continental art theory and pedagogy. His groundbreaking handbook borrows an incremental teaching method from Serlio, an art-theoretical superstructure from Lomazzo, and an imitative drawing program from Fialetti, and conflates these into a practical guide aimed at English readers. He carefully simplifies both method and theory, giving his readers a step-by-step guide with visual prompts and English examples, so that the poor state of English invention and art appreciation might have every chance of rising out of its backwardness. His chapter on the grotesque is the first explicit description and explanation of the style to the English public. The style is held up as a model of artistic invention, and “the Germanes” are praised both for their expertise therein and their culture of art and patronage. Peacham hopes his manual, built upon Italian theory and northern European practice, will break the aesthetic ice in England and lead his countrymen to a revival of the arts to match the Continent.

Pages: 735 - 750