Drawing allowed artists to express themselves freely, unlike the more highly finished art of painting. Each mark added to the paper was the manifestation of an idea, a thought recorded. Nonetheless, Guercino treated each of his drawings as individual works of art. Guercino began his drawings in pen and ink and often later added wash to create a painterly effect. These emphatic touches of wash in chiaroscuro animate the drawings and thereby act much like colour in a painting. Given the presence of several pentimenti, Guercino’s sketches of genre scenes have an immediacy that suggests the artist was working quickly and directly from life.
During the seventeenth century, artists intended these informal drawings for the amusement of the viewer. Guercino often used these snapshots of life to poke fun at his subjects. In the Interior of a Kitchen, the seated young man directs a chubby half-nude infant to lift a tray of food, which appears far too heavy for him. Meanwhile, the woman continues her work, unaware of the scene behind her, perhaps until a moment later when the child will presumably topple over. Similarly in the Baker’s Shop, Guercino draws the scene on a skewed angle so that our low point of view allows us a peek under the woman’s skirts at their sagging stockings. As for the Two Women Drying their Hair, completely unaware of being viewed, they are caught in rather unfeminine and awkward poses.