Chalk Drawings
Types, History of Drawing with Chalks.

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Head of a Smiling Young Woman
in Three-Quarter View (1543)
By Agnolo Bronzino.
Charcoal and black chalk,
highlighted with white chalk.
See also: Venetian Drawing.

Chalk Drawings

Chalk is one of the oldest drawing media similar to pastels in texture and appearance, and has been used by draughtsmen and painters ever since prehistoric times.

In its best known form, it is a soft fine-grained white rock, consisting of almost pure calcium carbonate (limestone), pieces of which are used for drawing. It is usually applied dry to paper and because it smudges easily it is easily mixed and blended. White chalk was originally used to add highlights to other drawing media and was particularly effective on toned papers.

As well as white, there are two other types of chalks used for sketching: red and black. The red variety is an ochre coloured haematite, called 'sanguine' derived from the French for blood-red; the black variety is cut from black carbonaceous shale. Chalks are now produced in a full range of colours by combining the limestone with water, pigment, and a binding agent like gum..

For an guide to aesthetics,
see: Art Definition, Meaning.

Other Graphic Art Forms
- Charcoal drawing
- Conte Crayon
- Pen and Ink drawings
- Pastels
- Pencil drawings


One of the earliest types of art, chalk drawings date from Stone Age times, and chalk became a popular medium among 15th century Early Renaissance artists experimenting with chiaroscuro, not least because black chalk provided the darkest tone, red offered a mid-tone while white provided the highlight. One of the most prolific exponents of chalk-based graphic art was the French artist Jean Clouet (1472-1541) the Premier Peintre du Roi to the king of France. Almost 130 drawings in red, white and black chalk are attributed to Clouet, most of them at Chantilly Musee.

Artists Who Used Chalks

Many other Old Masters used the media, including Renaissance artists like Leonardo Da Vinci (who pioneered the use of red chalks), the prodigy Raphael and Michelangelo Buonarroti (eg. Deploration over the Dead Christ), as well as Northern Renaissance artists like Albrecht Durer (eg. Portrait of Erasmus) and Rembrandt.

For more details, see: Renaissance Drawings.
See also the meaning of "disegno".

Academic painters like Rubens habitually used red chalk to produce preparatory designs for their large scale history paintings and landscapes, while Rubens' pupil, the portraitist Van Dyck, preferred to employ white and black, as these colours are most effective for drawing the contours of a face. The Scottish portraitist Allan Ramsay relied on preparatory chalk drawings for his portraits. Later other famous painters who used chalks, either for finished drawings or preliminary sketches, include Jean-Honore Fragonard, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Edgar Degas.

• For facts about painting movements, styles and Old Masters, see: History of Art.
• For details of drawing/sketching, see: Homepage.

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