Contemporary Artists on the Old Master Drawings that Inspire Them

30 January | New York
Launch Slideshow

This January Sotheby's Old Master Drawings auction presents works by some of the most important names in art history, including Rubens, Carracci, Tiepolo and Constable, to name but a few. Inspired by these masters of the medium, contemporary illustration and sketchbook artists – whose works are currently on view at NoMad-based gallery Sugarlift – chose their favorite pieces from the sale. Ahead, view their selections and discover why whether in 1519 or 2019, these artists' shared craft remains incredibly compelling.

On 27 January from 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM, come join the artists featured in this slideshow in Sotheby's New York galleries where you can sketch the art on view in a notebook provided by Moleskine. All experience levels welcome.

Contemporary Artists on the Old Master Drawings that Inspire Them

  • Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Nude Study of a Young Man with Raised Arms. Estimate $2,500,000–3,500,000.
    “With graceful ease, the master hand of Peter Paul Rubens designed the rhythms and dynamic forms of the human body. In Nude Study Of A Young Man With Raised Arms, even the pentimenti is packed with meaning and seems to intentionally show Rubens’s deliberation over the actual movement of raising a heavy object over head, eluding to the young man’s psychological uncertainty of step.” – Joshua Henderson
  • John Constable, Summer Evening with Storm. Estimate $150,000–200,000.
    “This past summer, I spent a few weeks in our family house in London, on Church Row in Hampstead. John Constable was buried on the grounds of the deeply romantic and overgrown churchyard, which is just a few hundred feet from our doorstep. Constable lived in Hampstead and would take his paint box and old wood panels, or prepared paper (usually shellacked, I assume), to Hampstead Heath to work en plein air. The Heath is now a preserved area of 800 acres of open land high above London to the north. I took a long walk through the Heath, thinking of Constable. Some time ago I read Leslie’s Memoirs of the Life of John Constable. I’ve painted scores of 'pochades' mainly in Italy and the south of France, so I have a personal appreciation of Constable's oil studies.” – Ted Schmidt
  • John Ruskin, The South side of the Basilica of St Mark’s, from the loggia of the Doge’s Palace, Venice. Estimate $120,000–180,000.
    “Like a message across time, I was drawn to this image, having stood at this very corner with pen and sketchbook in hand, compelled to capture these same elements. Ruskin’s image is crisp and bright with details rendered with such precision they command your gaze so that you almost forget about the crowds in St Mark’s square.” – Vi Luong
  • Attributed to Agostino Carracci, Portrait of a Youth. Estimate $35,000–45,000.
    "With exquisite craftsmanship and minimal lines, this straight-on, defiant stare captures me and the already deep well of this boy's life. What has he seen and experienced to give him such a steely gaze? Caution: children are among us, and they are always watching." – Dilleen Marsh
  • Italian School, 16th Century, The Fight for the Standard (The Battle of Anghiari), After Leonardo. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    “The dissonance between the carefully constructed balanced composition and the horrific entanglement of bodies is an interesting study. The true narrative is found in the horses' expressions.” – Nicolas V. Sanchez
  • Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Four Dogs Dancing and One Seated Looking to the Left. Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    “For a long time Tiepolo has been a favorite of mine, in part, because I’ve always admired his line quality and value control. Four Dancing Dogs and One Seated to the Left is charged with a real sense of wonder and playfulness. The dogs themselves have a remarkable feeling of gesture that gives them personality and brings them to life. The use of multiple animals in uncanny situations relates directly to my current body of work, so it hits me in a particularly personal way.” – Marshall Jones
  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of the head of a young boy with a large collar. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    “Amazed how with so little the artist gave us this look full of thoughts. It is up to us to discover what this young boy is wanting to say.” – David Morales Hernandez
  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, A Villa Surrounded by Trees. Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    “Tiepolo’s economy of mark-making in this little landscape is just so enjoyable (and enviable). The gestural lines and quick washes seem worlds away from the careful compositions in his oil paintings. The scene is surprisingly contemporary in its casual looseness and reminds me of my attempts to capture the Umbrian landscape in my very first sketchbooks.” – Paul Heaston
  • Bolognese School, Early 18th Century, Study sheet with a Satyr. Estimate $7,000–9,000.
    "This drawing is an excellent example of texture and sensitivity of line. Using the same red chalk, the artist was able to create form, depth and texture within this one figure. The contrasting tones between the elbow and the shoulder create a convincing depth and they were also able to portray the differences between a sleek muscular flesh transitioning into the texture of the Satyr's hairy legs. A masterful range in a seemingly simple drawing." – Guno Park
  • Jean-Jacques de Boissieu, Study of a Clump of Trees. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    “As a landscape painter and printmaker, I tend to gravitate to images that represent nature. It was no surprise that I was immediately drawn to this study by de Boissieu. At first this drawing seems to be a careful and detailed rendition of the subjects, but if you look closely you can see the mind of the artist at work. He quickly lays on the paper washes to block in shapes along gestural brush and pen marks to describe what is happening in the background. These energetic, carefree movements and marks are what I find exciting. It's what pulls me in. The drawing then becomes more reflective as the artist begins to make precise solid lines and shapes. It's almost like he's orchestrating a symphony, and all I can do is submit to the music of these trees.” – Luis Colan
  • Jan Baptist Kobell, Study of a Sleeping Cow with a Sheep and Goat. Estimate $2,500–3,500.
    “I love the idiosyncratic composition and deceptively simple subject matter of this drawing. The three animals seem to be simultaneously alive and iconic, both realistic and symbolic. There is an amazing sense of depth and distance achieved by modulating the sharpness of the lines from the foreground, on the cow’s head, to the background and the goat.” – Dina Brodsky
  • Jacob Ernst Marcus, Portraits of Jacob Van de Merckt and his wife Petronella Witsen, After Hendrick Gerritsz Pot. Estimate $1,000–1,500.
    I am generally a fan of dual portraits, and I find the balanced composition of this diptych deeply satisfying. The composition should rightly be credited to Hendrick Gerritsz Pot for his 1628 oil painting, but the brightness and delicate brushwork of Jacob Ernst Marcus's watercolor copy make for a wonderful interpretation of the original.” – Diana Corvelle
Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos & news.
Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's

We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.