Before I start, I am not a Da Vinci fan at all. No hate but I think that most art lovers are either team Da Vinci or team Michelangelo and I am 100% team Michelangelo for life. Because of this I was quite sceptical before coming to the exhibition. However, I absolutely love drawings and because the whole exhibition was such a big deal I knew that I needed to visit.
Fun fact for the non arty people: Da Vinci is often considered the father of palaeontology. So without him, Ross Geller from Friends would have no job.
As I walked through the door the first thing that I thought was; it’s dark. I later understood why.
In the first room of the exhibition there are large wall panels which tell you about the exhibition, the drawings and also provide a background on Da Vinci himself. These 10 drawings were selected from the British Royal Collection. When he died, Da Vinci left his notebooks and drawings to his pupil Francesco Melzi. In the 1580’s, this was bought by Italian sculptor Pompeo Leoni. One album from this collection which included a whopping 600 drawings was brought to England in the 17th century and entered the collection of the Earl of Arundel which was eventually passed on to the Royal Collection. This is the first time the drawings have been exhibited outside the UK so the National Gallery are extremely lucky to get to showcase them.
Also in the first or “introduction room” there is a bench to sit and watch a movie where a man is showing us how Da Vinci used his materials and he shares information about him. He shows us how he used to draw and paint. This was a smart, engaging idea as there are quite a few wall labels with a lot of information to read so it is nice to sit and listen.
The next two rooms showcase the works on the walls as well as on displays in the centre of the rooms. The space flows well and is easy to view the drawings in cohesion. The works in the middle of the rooms are shown on glass panels which enable us to see each work fully and without barriers. The rooms are dark because lights shine directly on to the drawings to allow us to see details better.
The lights do not shine in a way. They are subtle and work well within the space to showcase every detail on the drawings.
The drawings range from a complete variety of different objects. For example there are humans, horses, lions, cats, blackberries and geometry. Before I went I assumed that most works would be humans or maths related which I know Da Vinci for. However, the exhibition demonstrates how versatile he was as an artist and that he had countless different interests.
The wall panels are exceptionally detailed and have a lot of information about each drawing and the story behind how and why they were created.
Two of the works “A map of the Arno East of Florence” (1504) and “A Deluge” (1517-18) when I first saw them instantly reminded me of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (1889) for the similar swirls and shapes seen. Coincidence? I think not. Could Van Gogh have taken inspiration from these drawings or Da Vinci in general? Who knows, maybe they both just painted a few swirls. They all look more alike up close and in person because the details are harder to see from the images below.
“The vessels of the liver, spleen and kidneys” (1508) shows extraordinary detail as well as the other 9 drawings do but this is unbelievable how well he drew this. The notes beside the drawings such as this one show what he was thinking and doing while drawing which humanises him in some ways. The picture does not do this drawing justice and it really needs to be seen up close for the detail to be truly shown and admired.
He covers every inch of the pages that he uses. He does not leave any waste. He fills it with incredible detail and skill.
The only downfalls that I have to the exhibition are that some of the letters of the titles on the displays are missing which bothered me slightly. Although not a big deal, there are a lot of security men around and I am sure that the exhibition is monitored which means this could be easily fixed. However, the titles are on the wall panels with the information about the pieces therefore we are not left wondering about the titles. Another downfall was how spread out everything was. It seems to slightly drag on. Nonetheless, I do understand how hyped up this exhibition was so the fact that the works are so separated and spread over three rooms would work well for large crowds.
I liked every single drawing that I saw and it was amazing to be able to see them up so close without having markers to stop you from seeing the detail. I was not completely and absolutely blown away by the drawings but I like that, because it shows that some of these were his casual sketches and notes that he was doing probably while having a cuppa. It exhibits his practice and research which demonstrates precisely that practice really does make perfect.
Overall a very enjoyable exhibition. A solid 8/10.
The exhibition runs until July 17th. For more information or to book your free tickets click http://www.nationalgallery.ie/en/Exhibitions/Leonardo.aspx