Monday, 9 February 2015

What I drew at the British Museum

Gold cape, 1900-1600BC, found Mold, Wales, 1833
I had a day drawing at the British Museum last Saturday with London's Urban Sketchers, and found myself drawing the kind of things I don't usually do. Of course, the scale of what is on display is immense – around eight million objects are viewed by more than six million visitors a year. The museum may have been crowded, but it is still possible to get an object to draw quietly for a while without feeling you are getting in the way.

Even the Mold Cape has a space by a pillar where I could slip in to draw. The cape is not like anything I've seen before. Dug up in Wales in 1883, and more than 3,000 years old, its fragments went to different people when it was discovered, and only slowly, over more than 100 years, was it reassembled as bits of the paper-thin gold made their way to the British Museum to create what it is now. Neil MacGregor, the director of the museum, featured the cape in his Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects in 2010.

Egyptian rooms
Time was limited on Saturday, and there were people to meet and talk to, so it is easy to find yourself sweeping past miraculously saved objects that have similarly intriguing stories. In the Egyptian rooms, the Gayer Anderson cat, with nose and ear piercings, a horus falcon with extraordinary eyes, and the sculpture of the seated man whose name I wrote so quickly I can't read it now caught my eye. Downstairs in Africa, as it were, contemporary work, such as El Anatsui's sculpture that echoes the form of the Mold Cape, made me stop and draw.

Thanks go to Isabel Carmona and Sue Pownall for arranging the day, and to Simone Ridyard – who is included in Sketch Your World and has her own book out soon – who travelled down from Manchester. There are more drawings from the day on the London Urban Sketchers Facebook page. Monthly gatherings are planned through the rest of the year.

Entrance to the British Museum is free, even in our age of austerity.

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