Lines of thought
Drawing from Michelangelo to now

Tour schedule

Poole Museum:
3 September – 6 November 2016

Hull University Art Collection:
3 January – 28 February 2017

Ulster Museum, Belfast:
10 March – 7 May 2017

Recommend this exhibition

Lines of thought explores drawing as one of the most effective mediums for expressing and representing an artist’s ideas. Its immediacy allows artists to act almost at the speed of thought, their choices legible in every line.

The British Museum’s Prints and Drawings collection is one of the world’s greatest graphic collections with around 50,000 drawings and over two million prints dating from the early fifteenth century to today. The exhibition showcases selected drawings from fifteenth and sixteenth century masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo right up to artists working now. Lines of thought thus emphasises the continuing vitality and fundamental nature of drawing, and its importance for artists from Michelangelo to Mondrian, Rembrandt to Rachel Whiteread, Piranesi to Picasso. What unites all of these artists, from the Renaissance through to contemporary practitioners and all those in-between, is the use of drawing as a means of thinking on paper.

The exhibition will be arranged not by period or style, but by the types of thinking drawing both records and stimulates. The five sections are: The Likeness of a Thought, Brainstorming, Enquiry and Experiment, Insight and Association and Development and Decisions. By examining the process of drawing through this lens, the exhibition emphasizes the numerous and invaluable lessons one can learn from looking at the drawings of past masters in the context of artists working today, and offers a unique chance to view the minds of some of the world’s most astonishing artists in operation.

This exhibition will tour to just three galleries, Poole, Hull and Belfast with the aim of encouraging art students and art lovers across the UK to engage with and learn to draw from their local and national drawing collections.

The beautifully illustrated volume Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now, by Isabel Seligman, with foreword by Bridget Riley, published by Thames and Hudson, is available to purchase at the British Museum online shop.

This tour is supported through the generosity of the Bridget Riley Art Foundation.


Paul Cézanne, Study of a plaster cupid, c.1890 Graphite 1935,0413.2