Firstly, Hill with the Ruins of Montmajour Abbey, (circa 1888, Pen and brown ink, 485x598mm) by Vincent van Gogh.
It completely undermines the myth that van Gogh was a primitive madman- it is painstakingly observed, controlled and lucid with a firm composition and an extraordinary sense of depth for what is essentially a collection of marks and lines. There is a sense of joy and inventiveness in the variety of marks, he seems greedy to tackle the huge variety of nature before him.
What sits oddly with its historical context is its level of intense observation- more like a renaissance artist, it almost resembles Albrecht Durer’s landscape studies, than what we think of as Expressionist or Post Impressionist. What would become known as Post Impressionism was in a way being born while the Impressionists were still at the height of their acclaim and influence- “drawing,” as such, hadn’t been a huge part of Impressionism, yet it would be crucially important to succeeding modernist movements, as “the Line” made something of a comeback: the firm, strong line as a mark of the clear sighted vision of modernity.
A Young Woman Sleeping, (circa 1654, brush and brown wash, 246x203mm) by Rembrandt van Rijn, on the other hand looks completely like a hasty, mildly expressionist, sketch which could have been done five minutes ago- it maintains a contemporary feel with its minimalism and freshness, although it could be argued that the van Gogh bears more resemblance to the current trend in intense painstaking observation/mark making.
Also, although the drawing is very famously by Rembrandt, if we didn’t know this it would be much harder to identify its maker/historical context/geographic context – it could easily be a drawing by a Japanese calligraphic master, a sketch by Hokusai etc. The same could not be said of his paintings, which by the standards of the time could never be as daringly minimal.
So although painting, drawing and vision are highly conditioned by our cultural/geographic/historical context, there is a way in which drawings, as such primal visual means of communication, can transcend their contextual origins much more than in painting.