Lead image – Head of an Old Bearded Man

To mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) has unveiled a display of 12 drawings by the Renaissance master as part of a nationwide celebration which opened on Friday 1st February. This is the first-time visitors can see these 12 works on display in Birmingham and offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view them up close in the city.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is 12 simultaneous exhibitions spanning the UK, from Friday 1st February – Monday 6th May, where visitors will see some of Leonardo’s greatest drawings from the Royal Collection.

The free exhibition offers an extraordinary insight into Leonardo da Vinci’s mind. He practised as a painter, sculptor, architect and engineer, amongst many other disciplines, but drawing unified all areas of his work.

The Birmingham exhibition presents works from across Leonardo’s life. They include scientific studies, a study for St James in the Last Supper, a study of trees and the light falling on leaves, the head of an old bearded man and a storm overwhelming a landscape. Together they give an insight into the range of interests that Leonardo pursued throughout his lifetime.

One of the works in the exhibition, A sheet of miscellaneous studies, c.1940, appears in a ground-breaking new book, Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look, published in February 2019 by Royal Collection Trust. A Closer Look presents the findings of scientific research, using a range of non-invasive techniques to reveal new details about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process. Works including A sheet of miscellaneous studies are examined in unprecedented detail, uncovering details invisible to the naked eye.

BMAG will bring Leonardo’s techniques alive for visitors through an engaging learning programme which includes guided tours, a talk from Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust, and family art activities.

An allegory with a dog and an eagle

Katie Morton, Exhibitions Curator at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to see drawings by Leonardo da Vinci up close and get a glimpse into the mind of the archetypal ‘Renaissance Man’. Leonardo’s genius is truly visible through these drawings and we are thrilled to be part of this nationwide celebration with Royal Collection Trust. We are sure this exhibition will be hugely popular and urge visitors not to miss their chance to be a part of it.”

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said: “We are delighted to work with Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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.”

Visitors to the Midlands have the chance to see two exhibitions of Leonardo works with a display of 12 different drawings on show at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will also be on show at Belfast’s Ulster Museum, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, National Museum Cardiff, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, Southampton City Art Gallery and Sunderland Museums and Winter Gardens.

The nationwide event is supported by Constantine and the Birmingham exhibition is sponsored by Coutts Bank.

Following the exhibitions at Royal Collection Trust’s partner venues, in May 2019 the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition of over 200 sheets at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 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.

Works on paper are delicate by nature, so cannot be put on permanent display and these 12 drawings are unlikely to be shown in Birmingham again. For more information on Birmingham’s exhibition visit birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/leonardo-da-vinci-a-life-in-drawing. For more information on the 12 UK exhibitions visit rct.uk/leonardo500.

A special exhibition catalogue has been produced by Royal Collection Trust to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing and will be available for purchase in the museum gift shop and online, priced at £9.95. shop.birminghammuseums.org.uk

ImagesRoyal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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