Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing – 1 February – 6 May 2019

2019 marks 500 years since the death of the extraordinary artist, scientist, inventor and thinker, Leonardo da Vinci.

For this significant anniversary, the unrivalled collection of his drawings in the Royal Collection will be shared with audiences across the UK.

Twelve simultaneous exhibitions in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland will each display twelve different drawings, selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

In Bristol, the exhibition will take place at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and is sponsored by Clifton High School, Resource Solutions Group (RSG) and Smith & Williamson.

Jon Finch, Head of Culture at Bristol City Council, said: “We’re thrilled to be one of the host venues for this national celebration of Leonardo da Vinci. From landmark anatomical studies to whimsical pages, the drawings reveal his qualities as a dreamer, note-taker, designer and above all, an insatiably curious observer of the world around him. Working with Royal Collection Trust means we can bring globally significant art to Bristol so our visitors are able to enjoy some of the most technically accomplished drawings in the entire history of art. I would like to thank our sponsors Clifton High School, RSG and Smith & Williamson for their generous support.”

To complement the exhibition, three young Bristol creatives have produced an accompanying display in response to the drawings called Leonardo Unfinished. By identifying themes within Leonardo’s drawings, they have selected objects from across Bristol’s collections to create an eclectic and compelling manifesto to nurture your inner polymath.

Revered in his day as a painter, Leonardo completed only around 20 paintings; he was respected as a sculptor and architect, but no sculpture or buildings by him survive; he was a military and civil engineer who plotted with Machiavelli to divert the river Arno, but the scheme was never executed; he was an anatomist and dissected 30 human corpses, but his ground-breaking anatomical work was never published; he planned treatises on painting, water, mechanics, the growth of plants and many other subjects, but none was ever finished.  As so much of his life’s work was unrealised or destroyed, Leonardo’s greatest achievements are to be found on sheets of paper.

Recto: The bones of the foot. Verso: The bones and muscles of the arm

The drawings in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death, and provide an unparalleled insight into Leonardo’s investigations and the workings of his mind. Few of his surviving drawings were intended for others to see: drawing served as his laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation.

The exhibitions will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by the artist, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metalpoint. They will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques, including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence. The findings are brought together in a groundbreaking new book, Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look, published by Royal Collection Trust on 1 February 2019.

 Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said: “We are delighted to work with Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, as one of Royal Collection Trust’s 12 partner venues in the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing nationwide event. In 2019, in collaboration with our partners we will be giving the widest-ever audience across the UK the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist. The exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery demonstrates the extraordinarily wide range of Leonardo’s work throughout his lifetime, and is a thrilling opportunity for audiences to engage directly with one of the greatest minds in history. His drawings were central to his work in every field, both his artistic projects and his scientific investigations: they allowed Leonardo to work out his ideas on paper, and can be viewed as his private laboratory.”

A highlight of the accompanying event programme will be a romantic Renaissance themed evening on Valentine’s Day featuring a concert of choral music. A variety of school workshops and learning opportunities will also be available.

In May 2019, all the drawings will be brought together for a major exhibition of more than 200 sheets at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. It will be the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November 2019, the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

For more information, visit www.bristolmuseums.org.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing1 February – 6 May 2019, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

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