Monday, 4 June 2012

Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

Last week my wife and I went to the da Vinci exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Clifton, Bristol. It had been running for several weeks but circumstances had forced us to call off previous planned visits. As the exhibition is due to finish on 10th June we finally made it. The selection of drawings are from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and until the series of travelling exhibitions, of which Bristol is one, had not been seen in public for some considerable time ( if at all?).

 A da Vinci Drawing (not in the exhibition)

Drawing is said to be the first and most important element in good painting. It forms the basis for most watercolour paintings, even though you do get some particularly talented artists who are able to draw with the brush with no prior pencil drawing.  Leonardo da Vinci, who was a scientist and  engineer, as well as an artist, was particularly skilled and I was eager to see just what these drawings were like. They were displayed in a small darkened side gallery with just sufficient light to see them. No doubt they are extremely fragile being over 500 years old.

 Exhibition Catalogue 9" x 11" 48 pages £5

Almost without exception the drawings were small, the smallest 10.0cm x 12.8cm with the largest 27.7cm x 40.0cm. They were mainly pen and ink, mostly but not all, over black chalk. A study for an equestrian monument was metalpoint on blue prepared paper, others on rough paper. A study of `oak and dyer's greenwood'  was made with red chalk with touches of white on  pale red prepared paper. He used a stylus on at least one. Apart from the small size what struck me was the incredibly fine detail, absolutely minute and I wondered how he achieved such fine work. There were even small sheets of transparent plastic with a magnifying effect to assist visitors in studying the drawings. I asked a lady who was answering queries if she knew how he produced such tiny work and was told he was believed to have used `aids' like magnifiers. He was after all a scientist and engineer.  

The exhibition catalogue - effectively a paperback book - is first class and gives much information about the artists and the drawings. If you wish to see more of his work there is lots more on the internet. 


Mick Carney said...

I think most of us would benefit from forgetting about our painting and spending a significant amount of time on a daily basis getting our drawing into shape. Exhibitions like the one you've just seen are a revelation because they give you an immediate insight into the core of the artist's work. You can guarantee that if they are any good then their drawing is spot on. Good post.

Peter Ward said...

I've come to the conclusion Mick that the first two years when attempting to become an artist should be spent exclusively on learning to draw. It's a discipline that most people, other possibly than those taking a professional degree, shrink from.
My drawing is much better than it used to be but still not as good as I would wish it.

Yvonne Harry said...

I do so agree that we do not always spend as much time as we should doing drawing. 'They' say 10 minutes every day, and I am sure I would improve if I could discipline myself. I tell myself it doesn't matter as I paint flowers, but I do struggle with some of the club subjects! I must try to get there before it finishes

Peter Ward said...

Worth seeing Yvonne, even if a modest small exhibition. His drawings are amazing.

Laura Moore said...

Agree completely the drawing is key to all paintings. Even the contemporary greats who do paint with a brush are excellent drawers in the first place. Da Vinci's technical skill all round is surpassed by none in my view having seen a few of his drawings and works in my time. Really interesting post.

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Laura and thanks for commenting. Yes drawing is the key.