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Sketchbooks Research Guide

Sketchbooks for Artistic Education

From the later 1400s, drawing in sketchbooks became central to artistic formation in Europe. Young apprentices often began their training by making drawings after celebrated artworks and monuments from antiquity to their own day. This practice was codified in the later 1600s as national academies were established to educate painters, sculptors, and architects, often encouraging travel to Rome to learn from ancient and Renaissance art. The GRI holds examples of sketchbooks that document this kind of learning, including several by French artists from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, who, as recipients of the Prix de Rome scholarship, studied at the Académie de France, the national French academy in Rome.

João Glama Ströberle (1708-1792), a Portuguese painter, produced three sketchbooks, which reflect the training he received in Rome studying under Italian artists Marco Benefial and Agostino Masucci. Sketchbook I (1742) includes drawings illustrating scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Old Testament; Sketchbook II (1741) contains views of Rome, Naples, and Pisa, and sketches after paintings by Raphael, Paolo Veronese, and Salvator Rosa; Sketchbook III (undated) includes drawings from sculpture and paintings, as well as figures and animal studies; it was at least partially executed in Portugal, as the final pages contain measurements for cathedrals in Oporto and Braga. (2009.M.41; 2009.M.42; 2009.M.43)

Antoine-Léonard Dupasquier (1748-1831/32), a sculptor who studied at the Académie de France à Rome at the same time as Jacques-Louis David, filled this 1779 sketchbook with drawings after antiquities in the Vatican, including bas-reliefs, processional friezes, vases, busts, and instruments of worship and war. (2005.M.6)




French painter Louis Gauffier (1761-1801) made this sketchbook during his Prix de Rome scholarship (1784-1789). Gauffier drew views of Rome, labeling certain monuments. He studied ancient sculptures in many of the city’s most important collections, including the Villa Borghese, Palazzo Mattei and the Capitoline. As the folios of the sketchbook were consecutively numbered, skips in the pagination tell us where sheets have been removed. (950096)



Attributed to Charles Percier (1764-1838), a French neoclassical architect who was a pensionnaire at the Académie de France à Rome from 1786 to 1791, this sketchbook covers a range of subjects, from ancient Roman architectural fragments, to relief sculpture, Greek vases, plans of ancient and contemporary Roman villas, and inscriptions. (950016)




The GRI has two sketchbooks by an unknown, probably French, artist. The same enigmatic label has been affixed to both sketchbooks’ covers: “Album David à Rome.”  One has been dated ca. 1797 because it contains a drawing after Laurent de la Hyre’s History of Saint-Étienne, a painting exhibited at the Louvre in that year. The other can also be dated to a similar period based on its drawing after Jean-Germain Drouais’s 1784 painting of Christ and the Canaanite Woman. The sketchbooks also contain drawings of Marcantonio Raimondi’s early 16th-century engravings the Massacre of the Innocents and Adam and Eve, both after Raphael. (2004.M.24 and 2004.M.25)

In his brief but influential career, French painter and printmaker Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) helped shape the Romantic movement. From 1812 to 1814, Géricault carried this sketchbook around in his pocket, using it to copy motifs from Old Master paintings and ancient sculpture, as well as to record rapid life-studies of horses and lions. This sketchbook is held at the J. Paul Getty Museum. (95.GD.40)







William Orpen (1878-1931) was an Irish painter who established a successful commercial practice as a portraitist in London. As a student at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin (ca. 1889-1895), Orpen made these two sketchbooks: the first, titled “Principles of Ornament,” with tapestry, wallpaper, metalwork, jewelry, and architectural designs and the second with furniture from ancient Assyria to the early 19th century. (870604)