Making a Mark

Making a Mark

Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Royal Collection

‘Drawing is the father of painting…and the portal to many of the arts’

 Karel van Mander, 1604.

Exquisite and intriguing 16th- and 17th-century drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists, including Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck, feature in Making a Mark, the Barber’s first physical fine-art exhibition for more than a year.

Lent by Her Majesty the Queen from the Royal Collection’s extensive holdings in the Print Room at Windsor Castle, this is the first time in 25 years that so many of these drawings have been shown together.

At the turn of the 17th century, a newly formed Dutch Republic had broken free from oppressive Spanish Habsburg rule, formalised in 1648. While artists in the Spanish Netherlands, such as Van Dyck and Rubens, prospered under traditional patronage, new freedoms allowed the arts and sciences to flourish in the Republic. An emergent class of merchants – profiting from the expanding Dutch empire – looked to acquire objects of curiosity and beauty. This demand led the art market to become more competitive than ever, encouraging artists to work to very high standards in specific genres.

This exhibition – which also includes four exceptional drawings from the Barber’s own extensive collection of works on paper – examines the functions and purposes of drawing, and its importance to the artist’s profession. It discusses the techniques and materials used, and the varied ways artists found inspiration for drawings – whether from observation or memory, or somewhere between the two, which enabled artists to blur the distinctions between real life and imagination. It also considers how artists – famous and lesser known – made a living from drawing, and how the changing status of drawings, as both studies and finished artworks, meant patrons and an expanding collectors’ market played a significant role in an artist’s way of working and career success.

Making a Mark is the fourth exhibition in an annual partnership between Royal Collection Trust and the Barber Institute. It has been curated entirely in lockdown by this year’s cohort of ten University of Birmingham Art History and Curating MA students: Rahil Ahmadi, Xiyu Chen, Alexander Doran, Lucy Gray, Natalie McKenna, Dimitra Maravelaki, Cerian Millin, Mya Roberts, Samuel Robinson and Megan Symonds.

11 June - 26 September 2021

Free admission; booking essential.

Book your visit here.


Read in-depth illustrated essays by our student curators, exploring intriguing themes connected with Making a Mark:

Out of the Shadows, into the Spotlight: Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Theory of Art. By Lucy Gray

Humanising Art: Women in 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Drawings. ByDimitra Maravelaki

All Mapped Out: Drawing, Colonialism and Dutch Cartography in the 17th Century. By Sam Robinson


Follow the links to find out more and book your place:

Life-drawing workshop with Spirited Bodies, Wednesday 23 June, 2 – 3.30pm.

Making a Mark – Curator Talk, Thursday 1 July, 6 – 7pm.

Zoom in on nature with Pippa Pixley – family workshop, Saturday 17 July, 10 – 11.30am.

Drawing workshop with Hipkiss & Graney, Wednesday 4 August, 2 – 3.30pm (repeated on Sunday 8 August).

Make your own marks!

Put pen (or pencil, paint, stick of charcoal – whatever you have to hand) to paper for the #BarberDrawingChallenge! 

We’ll suggest a new theme every Thursday during July and August to get the creative juices – and the ink – flowing and encourage you to start Making a Mark or two.

All ages welcome – no experience needed.

Find out how to get involved!

Pick up a family trail

Follow the trail around the exhibition and see what you can find… and then take it home, turn it over, and create your own drawings!

Pick one up at the entrance to the galleries, or ask one of our Visitor Assistants.