Pen and Ink – Famous Works

As I continue exploring the history of pen and ink, I’m awed by the works of famous artists. For me, at this stage of my art-learning journey, such works are more intimidating than inspiring.

First, here’s a self-portrait by Rembrandt.


Rembrandt, you might recall, made a lot of self-portraits,  often dressing in different costumes and assuming different roles, much like an actor.

Art historians believe his ink self-portraits are probably more realistic in their depictions of himself as an artist.

In this drawing, he applied a dark wash over the jacket, using ink much like paint. The background was created with a light wash.

One of my personal favorites in the art world is Claude Lorraine who was instrumental in making landscape art an accepted genre. Take a look at this masterpiece — amazing!

Lorrain Landscape
Pastoral Landscape with Tall Trees – Claude Lorraine

This marvelous landscape is considered a good example of his “painterly drawings.” These were small paintings on paper. The one above was likely made around 1650. It was done with pen and ink with a brown wash over black chalk.

An Island in the Lagoon is a work by the Italian painter, Canaletto. He was known for his drawings of Venice — which combined the actual place with scenes from his imagination. This work was done with pen and ink and a carbon wash over ruled lines.

An Island in the Lagoon

There are so many magnificent pen and ink drawings that it is impossible, of course, to give a comprehensive list of famous artists and their works. But no list of ink drawings would be complete without mention of Vincent van Gogh.

He made many drawings, and while his paintings probably come to mind first when we think of van Gogh, it was actually his drawings that first brought him to the attention of the art world after his death.

View of Arles
View of Arles – Vincent van Gogh

His View of Arles was done in 1888 with reed pen, ink, and ink wash. You’ll see many more examples and learn much about van Gogh’s drawings at this site:

Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings

Other artists who created masterpieces in ink include:

  • Pablo Picasso
  • Francisco Goya
  • Michaelangelo
  • Peter Paul Rubens
  • Henri Matisse
  • Henry Moore

There are many others great works to study. I’ve found, though, that with most artists, their paintings have overshadowed their drawings. Finding information and illustrations of their pen and ink work can require a little digging.

I can only look at these works and marvel at the skill these artists possessed. To create works like these required not only drawing skill, but skill with the pens they used, knowledge of inks and washes, and above all, a tremendous amount of patience.

I will never be a great pen and ink artist, but even a beginner like me can learn a lot from looking at the works of these master artists and exploring the methods they used.










  1. Looking at the art of artists we admire is a great way to learn, especially for something like pen and ink where you can see the lines and learn how to mold a shape or make a shadow just by looking. Thanks for sharing these great drawings with us.

    Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s