Drawing is the most immediate form of artistic expression. It is often the first step in most painting, sculpture and architecture. Some drawings are independent works in their own right. The Museum's collection of drawings contains fine examples showing a range of drawing practices and techniques.
A large number of drawings in the collection tell the story of the importance of drawing to artistic training. Academies of art expected artists to have mastered the technique of copying from casts, followed by life models, before they were allowed to progress to paint.
Artists not trained in the academy also drew from life and the antique as a means of understanding anatomy, or copied the works of the Old Masters to help them understand composition and technique. The collection contains works by Samuel Cousins, John Constable, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Philip Henry Gosse, Frederick John Widgery, Barbara Hepworth and Paul Nash. Drawings can also serve as a note or study for further work in the studio.
Benjamin Robert Haydon, Frederick John Widgery and John Constable are artists who used drawings as memory aids for later works. Bound volumes of over 100 drawings by Constable and Haydon were bequeathed to the city of Exeter in 1897 and entered the Museum's collections in 1978. Frederick John Widgery donated a large selection of his own work to the Museum in 1931.