In honour of 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci passed away, 144 drawings are leaving Windsor Castle for a series of exhibitions to take place at several locations simultaneously. 12 UK venues have been selected to exhibit 12 works each before a final major show at the Queen’s Gallery in London in May where 200 drawings will be put on display. The London show will be the largest and most comprehensive UK exhibition of Da Vinci’s drawings since the Royal Academy of Arts’s 1952 exhibition, which marked 500 years since the artist was born.
The goal was to “reach the biggest possible audience with these drawings,” Martin Clayton, the head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust, said. It is estimated that 34 million people, or approximately half of the UK population, live within one hour of one of the exhibitions. Venues in Bristol, Belfast, Southampton, Sunderland and many more will all host exhibitions spanning the artist’s entire career, varying interests and range of ideas.
The drawings were once contained in a single album acquired by Charles II and Queen Elizabeth II that showcased more than 550 Da Vinci drawings covering the various interests of the artist like human anatomy, botany, cartography and many more. Together, they are said to represent 80% of what we know about the Renaissance master’s work.
Every small exhibition leading up to the big London show aims to offer a balanced view into Leonardo’s interests and materials. The works were distributed to the different venues at random with no favouritism in the selection. Some museums later altered their selections however to better suit their own collections like the Leeds Art Gallery for example, choosing to focus on his sculpture drawings.
Da Vinci drew with great imagination and used every material available to an artist at the time in the late 1400’s, including pen and ink, metalpoint, chalk and charcoal. Despite leaving behind only 20 finished works, Leonardo produced more work than artist of that era and wrote more manuscripts than anyone in any field during those times.
Half a millennium since the artist’s death, the exhibition is intended to bust the myth of the “crazy inventor” and shed light on how diligent, accessible and prolific Leonardo’s ideas were and how relevant they are today.
- Leonardo Da Vinci: a Life in Drawing, February 1- May 6 at various venues:
- Ulster Museum, Belfast
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
- Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
- National Museum Cardiff
- Derby Museum and Art Gallery
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
- Leeds Art Gallery
- Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
- Manchester Art Gallery
- Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
- Southampton City Art Gallery
- Sunderland Museums and Winter Gardens