“En Pointe: Silverpoint (Drawing from History),” a new exhibit at Historic Northampton, showcases the artistry and precision of a craft dedicated to realism.
Silverpoint drawing dates from the early Renaissance and is produced by dragging a stylist or wire across metal. Artists use a variety of metals — gold, silver, copper, lead — though silver is commonly used due to the way it oxidizes over time. It’s a medium known for its subtle and light lines.
“What’s so beautiful about it is that you can get these very, very fine linear lines,” said Diane Savino of Hatfield, one of the featured artists in the show, as well as the exhibit’s curator. “You also get a soft patina because the silverpoint will tarnish over time when it oxidizes with air.”
“En Pointe,” which runs through May 7, is inspired by the museum’s collected works of Charles C. Burleigh, Jr., who lived in Florence and Northampton in the mid 19th century and worked in a number of mediums, including silverpoint. Much of his art highlighted the people, places and landscapes of his time.
The eight contemporary artists featured in the “En Pointe” exhibit, like Burleigh, focus on silverpoint drawing, in part to reflect Burleigh’s goal of making copies of Italian art for his own studies, which he was unable to do before he died in his early 30s.
In addition to Savino, the Historic Northampton exhibit includes the work of Jon Gernon, Banjie Nicholas, William Patterson, Carolyn Patterson, Jeremiah Patterson, Kandy Phillips and Fred Wessel.
From landscapes to portraits, the artists showcase a variety of subjects and styles of silverpoint. Banjie Nicholas, for instance, is noted for drawing nature scenes on the inside surface of clamshells.
“They are so beautiful because of the shell’s hard surface — it takes to the silverpoint really well,” said Savino.
Jeremiah Patterson, son of artists Carolyn and William Patterson, and an associate professor of foundations at the University of Hartford’s art school, will give a talk and a live demonstration of silverpoint techniques at the museum on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Historic Northampton is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10a.m.-4 p.m., and Sundays noon-5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit and the presentation by Jeremiah Patterson, call 584-6011 or visit www.historicnorthampton.org.