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Why Tracey Emin is top draw at the Royal Academy

The appointment of Emin as professor of drawing at the RA might surprise some. But this outstanding draughtswoman can draw a line that communicates feeling every time

Tracey Emin is the right choice for professor of drawing at the Royal Academy. At last, after centuries of getting it wrong, the institution that William Blake saw as a conspiracy against true art has got something right.

In the 18th century, the Royal Academy crushed the hopes of ambitious artists like James Barry, who wanted to raise the game of British art with a more imaginative direction, and enshrined the role of art as aristocratic decor and portraiture – provoking Blake's wrath.

In the 19th century it championed the pedantries of Victorian painting and helped exclude the impressionist revolution from these shores, holding us up on the road to modern art.

In the 20th century it maintained that exclusion of the new. Its famous president, the sporting painter Alfred Munnings, proposed to horsewhip Picasso.

Finally, in this century, it has done something intelligent. Emin is an excellent choice as drawing professor. So is Fiona Rae for the professorship of painting. Both are technically accomplished and genuinely interested in the media they profess. Rae is less of a celebrity but her many-layered abstractions are fascinating, intelligent works of art. She should have got a Turner prize years ago.

So should Emin, for that matter, though missing her Turner moment hasn't held her back any. Fame is like smoke, it gets in your eyes. A lot of people can't forgive Emin her glamour. But the evidence of her talent is there, on paper. Her drawings are the Real Thing. If you dismiss them you are foolhardy. She is an expressionist whose jagged angry line communicates feeling every time. Surely this is true art in drawing – to convey emotion through the texture of a line. Emin is a very pure artist in this very pure sense. She can draw a line that says everything she wants or needs to say. None of her gestures in other media say more than those rough, rapid scrawled lines. Emin is an outstanding draughtswoman – let's hope she can pass on her gift to students. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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