Professional painters have long used brushes to apply paint for their finished work, but many used hand-held sticks of pigment only when sketching in preparation. Charcoal was widely used at first, with metal wire in silverpoint an alternative. In the sixteenth century, large deposits of graphite were discovered in Cumbria, England, following which graphite sticks and sheathed pencils became enormously popular among both amateurs and professionals.
Although it’s impossible to make any clear distinction between drawing and painting, those stick-based media are simple compared with oil paints, for instance, and seldom used in works comparable in their aims or sophistication to professional oil or watercolour painting.
The first changes in practice occurred as a result of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. Graphite was a strategic product, as it was used as a refractory in the manufacture of cannonballs, and supplies…
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