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.