Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing arrives at Leeds Art Gallery this February

21st January 2020

On February 1, 2019, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 144 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection will go on display in exhibitions across the UK, including Leeds Art Gallery.

Twelve drawings, selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests including painting, sculpture, architecture and anatomy will go on show at Leeds Art Gallery from February 1 to May 6 2019. The gallery will focus specifically on Leonardo da Vinci’s activity as a pioneering sculptor with masterful drawings which accentuate the journey of his sculptural thinking.

The collection includes A design for an equestrian monument, c.1485-8 which conveys Leonardo’s plans for ground-breaking sculptural design and place him at the leading edge of art in his day. Although no actual sculptures survive, these works highlight his ability to think through his drawings and bring to bear his scientific and engineering knowledge on the making of sculpture.

Leonardo firmly believed that visual evidence was more persuasive than academic argument, for an image conveyed knowledge more accurately and concisely than any words. 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. As so much of his life’s work was unrealised or destroyed, Leonardo’s greatest achievements are to be found on sheets of paper.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council
, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be welcoming this exhibition to Leeds Art Gallery and for visitors to have the incredibly rare opportunity to see the work of one of history’s most gifted artistic and scientific minds.

“Hosting such a prestigious exhibition is also a huge statement about the gallery’s growing status as one of the country’s leading galleries at what is a very exciting and ground-breaking time for culture and the arts in our city.

The Leeds showing of Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, held in partnership with Royal Collection Trust, will be a fitting prelude to Yorkshire Sculpture International which launches at Leeds Art Gallery in June 2019. The gallery is one of four organisations along with the Henry Moore Institute, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and The Hepworth Wakefield which will host this region-wide exhibition of pioneering local and international sculpture. With a history rooted in sculpture and links to artists including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, this is a unique opportunity to view rarely seen works in the city of Leeds.

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.

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