Cross hatching is a basic form of art, pencil sketch or by pen. Typically it is used as a framework upon which to build a painting but it has also been used as an art form in itself. There are many examples of the form that have survived, because the artist liked them enough to keep them in its original form, never intended to use it in a painting or as surviving blueprints for more famous work. Here is a list of ten of the most noteworthy examples of cross hatching.
1. Albrecht Dürer
The famous German Renaissance painter and engraver produced many examples of art through his life. At age 13, he used cross hatching to good effect in a self-portrait but it wouldn’t be the finest example. He was already famous in his twenties and is considered the greatest Renaissance artist of Northern Europe. His most famous cross hatching work is of two hands pressed together in prayer. There is so much detail that Albrecht Dürer even went to the effort of intricately detailing the arteries. The cross hatching method is most noticeable on the cuffs and the sleeves.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is famous for many paintings, portraits mostly though also a great number of landscapes too. As a painter, naturally he would use hatching methods as a framework for his work. His most famous self-portrait though remained in cross hatching form and it used the method almost entirely. He looks a little startled, is wearing a beret and his hair is unkempt. The whole piece has a ‘rough’ look about it but is nevertheless finely detailed and gives a good impression of the man.
3. Francisco Goya
Goya is a famous Spanish artist, painter and printmaker who lived from 1745 to 1828. Many of his paintings have a certain ‘cartoony’ look about them. The nature of his work (he painted mostly people) meant that he probably used cross hatching. One of his best examples comes from the Disparates set produced in 1877. It is of an elephant standing next to a pond. The pond is surrounded by what looks like some rocks. A group of Middle Eastern looking men are on the left hand side and one is carrying a large item, something like a stone slab
4. Edgar Degas
This famous French artist began to paint early in life and it was his paintings for which he was most famous, though later in life he developed a passion for the new craze of photography. Most of his works were portraits and people in situations. The best surviving example of cross hatching in his work is called ‘two dancers resting’. It shows two ballerinas, fully dressed in their dancing attire. One is bending over and holding her left foot while a second rests her head on her hand, looking asleep!
5. Leonardo Da Vinci (1)
One of the most famous artists to ever have lived, he painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A few years ago, a large number of his most famous sketches went on a tour, allowing the world to see some of his most amazing pencil work. A number of them used cross hatching to fine effect. One of the most impressive examples of intricate cross hatching is his ‘Old Men’ sketch. It is the clearest example in this list and shows five elderly men. One is wearing what looks like a laurel wreath.
6. Leonardo Da Vinci (2)
Leonardo’s collection of sketches is so large that it is worth including two examples of his work. He produced a number of self-portraits and the image that we know best of the man, taken of him in old age, used the cross hatching method. It shows only his head, turning slightly to his left (our right). He has a full beard, the hair on the side of his head is long but he is bald on top. He looks slightly glum with a frown and his mouth turned down
7. Henry Moore
Though best known as a sculptor, Henry Moore also sketched from time to time. His drawing work was almost entirely cross hatching and many examples survive today and are mostly stylised human figures. Examples include ‘Two Women Winding Wool’ and in this example you can certainly see that they were designed to be templates for sculptures. Other examples include naked human figures. One is sat on a stool – one from the back and one from the front, probably a female figure. There are a number of sitting figures within his work
8. Hendrink Goltzius
The famous Renaissance painter also used cross hatching to good effect when constructing his paintings. Considered a leading Dutch engraver in the 16th and 17th centuries, his most famous cross hatching work is a portrait of his right hand. Contorting his hand in order to show detail of his arteries, the cross hatching is used to good effect on the wrist and the fingers as well as the sleeve which is in the bottom left corner.
Famous for sculptures, paintings and a range of mediums it is said that no other individual had such a large influence on western art. Some of the finest examples of contour cross hatching come from this famous Renaissance Master. One of his finest examples is of a male figure from behind. He is muscular and cross hatching is used to good effect down his back, leg and buttocks. The hatching is fine and curved, adjusting to and creating the contours of the male figure
The sculptor most famous for ‘The Kiss’ was well-known for using cross hatching in his preliminary sketches. This he did whether designing a template for a sculpture or a painting. Several examples exist but the best and most illustrative is the naked figure of a man lying on the floor curled up into a ball. His hands are over his head, apparently in a protective stance.
Art takes a lot of hard work; a painter can rarely produce a painting without first laying down some foundations upon which to build and that is usually a sketch using the cross hatching method. Though conventionally used as a framework on which to build paintings, or as a reference for sculpture, examples of cross hatching in art can be fine works of art in themselves. When used in fine detail, they can be as impressive as a fully completed painting.