In a letter of November 1694, Sir Christopher Wren set down some thoughts on the purpose and benefits of drawing:
It was observed … that our English Artists are dull enough at Inventions, but when once a forreigne patterne is sett, they imitate soe well that commonly they exceed the originall. I confess the observation is generally true, but this shows that our Natives want not a Genius, but education in that which is the Foundation of all Mechaniek Arts, a practice in designing or drawing, to which every body in Italy, France, and the Low Countries pretends to more or less.
For Wren, drawing was more than a means of depicting a design, but a process which facilitated the conceptualization and refinement of a design. It was by ‘drawing’, he believed, that skill in ‘invention’ was most effectively acquired; hence his regret that native craftsmen lacked an ‘education’ in ‘designing or drawing’. He continues the letter by suggesting that drawing, as ‘the Foundation of all Mechaniek Arts’, might ‘usefully’ be included in the education of the young:
I cannot imagine that, next to good writing, anything could be more usefully taught your Children, especially such as will natually take to it, and … have a natural genius to it, which it is a pity should be stifled.