Where do you start with graphite? Do you begin at the beginning, when sedimentary carbon oxidizes during its transformation into metamorphic rock? Or do you look to the future where single-atom layers of graphite called graphene are used to transform everything from water filters to batteries? For us, graphite gets interesting around 4500 BCE, when the Boian culture in neolithic Europe began marking their pottery with geometric patterns in graphite. For the next six and a half millennia, humans have made marks with graphite, smearing it as powder, rubbing it as sticks, or casing it in wood to create perhaps the simplest and most versatile artistic instrument—the pencil.

Reed Enger, "Graphite, Our pencils contain a super-material," in Obelisk Art History, Published March 05, 2016; last modified July 20, 2019,

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Simeon Solomon, 1859

Guinevere and Iseult: Cartoon for Stained Glass

William Morris, 1862

Study of a Seated Woman

Edgar Degas, 1868-1869

Bay of Uri, Brunnen

John Singer Sargent, 1870


Winslow Homer, 1878

Curtain for Le Coq d'Or: Third Act

Natalia Goncharova, 1914

Study for a Curtain for 'Le Coq d'Or'

Natalia Goncharova, 1913-1914

The Artist's Mother

Umberto Boccioni, 1915

Study for Proun S.K.

El Lissitzky, 1922-1923


El Lissitzky, 1922-1924

The Card Game

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, 1937

Sleep Mask

Adolph Gottlieb, 1945

Exquisite Corpse

André Breton, 1949

Through the headlights we see the land of fire

Aloïse Corbaz, c. 1941-1951


Agnes Martin, 1957

Study for Bicho

Lygia Clark, 1960

Untitled (Rome, June 1960)

Cy Twombly, 1960

The Tree

Agnes Martin, 1964

Orange Grove

Agnes Martin, 1965

Untitled, 1965

Brice Marden, 1964-1965

The Two Musicians

Baya Mahieddine, 1966


Carlos Mérida, 1968

Yellow Body

Robert Rauschenberg, 1968


Ali Al Jabri, 1970

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110

Robert Motherwell, 1971

Fifty Days at Iliam: The Fire that Consumes All before It

Cy Twombly, 1978

Untitled #5

Agnes Martin, 1991


Baya Mahieddine, 1992

Quattro Stagioni: Autunno

Cy Twombly, 1993-1995

Untitled #10

Agnes Martin, 1995

I Love the Whole World

Agnes Martin, 1999


Agnes Martin, 2001
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