Monday, January 7, 2013

No. 1098.01 354 (Mütter Museum)

On the afternoon of January 5th, I returned to the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to do some drawing. When I arrived I found the place packed to the gills - even more so than it's been on recent visits.

Perhaps we can blame Anthony Bourdain for his recent televised visit or the Brothers Quay for their recent film, but this surge in attendance has been building momentum for the last several years. When I first started visiting the Mütter many years ago, I could spend hours in the galleries without seeing another soul. And while I am pleased to see a beloved institution so well attended, it's a bit of a pain for someone like me to find people standing three deep around each case.

At times like this, I am reminded of a scene in the 1992 film A Question of Attribution. Sir Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures (played by James Fox), is explaining a painting to a policeman in the National Gallery when a gaggle of Japanese tourists wander in and obstruct the view. Sir Anthony is enraged to be so interrupted and exclaims, "This is intolerable! Guards! Guards! Clear the gallery!" And they do.

Ah, how often I have wished to exercise such a power - but only for good, of course. With great power comes great responsibility, after all.

At any rate, I did manage to do two drawings that afternoon despite the close quarters and constant jostling. I have found that wearing earphones helps to blot out the conversations going on around me and prevents well-meaning people from attempting to converse with me. So, I was alone with David Bowie and the cephalothoracopagus skeleton for about an hour. Then, with just fifteen minutes left until closing, I dashed out this quick drawing of a 6-month-old fetal skull. This particular corner is often overlooked in favor of more ostentatious exhibits. I drew directly in sepia ink on a 4x6-inch block of Lana cold-pressed watercolor paper (so the skull itself is just about actual size) - without any prior sketching in pencil.

The next day, working from memory, I refined the drawing with washes of blue and brown ink. After the ink washes dried, I reinforced some of the important lines with black ink. Overall, I am quite pleased with the result - especially where the warm and cool colors overlap and blend. I believe I will continue to do more studies using this technique.