Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.98.
William Strang was trained in the use of this highly disciplined drawing medium during his time at the Slade School of Art (1875-1883). The Professor there during this time was Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), who was one of the chief exponents in the resurgence of metalpoint during the second half of the nineteenth-century. Strang would become the assistant master in Legros’ etching class.
An artist working in metalpoint uses a sharp, pointed instrument (a stylus) with a metal tip to draw on paper, parchment, or wood that has been specially coated. As the stylus travels across this slightly abrasive ground, a small amount of metal is scraped off and remains behind, creating a line.
Metalpoint is considered a challenging medium. The lines can be difficult or even impossible to erase depending on such factors as the type of ground. Unlike pen or chalk, which can produce strokes of varying thickness or darkness depending on how hard artists bear down on the instrument, silver leaves a nearly uniform line. Nonetheless, the medium offers practical and aesthetic advantages: Its portability and convenience make it particularly suited for use in sketchbooks, as artists do not have to carry an inkwell or wait for ink to dry. Silverpoint is especially resistant to smearing and therefore has the added benefit of durability. Also, the precision and subtlety of its delicate lines render it ideal for capturing fine detail. Above all, it is the shimmering beauty of metalpoint that has attracted artists across the centuries.
The medium was perfectly suited to the subtlety and technical quality of Strang’s draughtsmanship. Another silverpoint by Strang depicting a reclining female nude, viewed from behind, can be seen in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Art.