Leonardo da Vinci drawings so fine even lights at Kelvingrove have to be dimmed

By Ian Marland at

Works by one of the world’s most famous artists have gone on show at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.

The exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing showcases twelve of the finest drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.

Leonardo da Vinci

Master: Twelve works by da Vinci are part of the exhibition

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is a nationwide event that marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

144 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection will be displayed simultaneously in twelve venues across the UK from 1 February to 6 May 2019, with different works on show in each of the participating museums and galleries.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is the only Scottish venue to host one of the exhibitions of twelve drawings, and entry to the exhibition is free of charge.

Highlights of the exhibition in Glasgow include A star-of-Bethlehem and other plants c.1506-12 and The anatomy of a bear’s foot, c.1488-90.

Chair of Glasgow Life, councillor David McDonald, said: “Leonardo da Vinci is without doubt one of the most venerated and influential artists of all time and we are absolutely delighted to be able to host this exhibition of drawings at Kelvingrove Museum as part of Royal Collection Trust’s nationwide event.

Leonardo da Vinci

Lone: Kelvingrove is the only Scottish location to see the painter’s works

“As the only Scottish venue to host Leonardo’s drawings as part of the simultaneous display across the country, we are thrilled that our visitors will have the chance to see these intricate drawings up close.”

As the works are so old, they cannot be exposed to strong lighting.

Pippa Stephenson, curator of European art at Glasgow Museums, said the works were extremely sensitive to light.

“These works are, of course, hundreds of years old – they’ve been in the country since 1670.

“As the only Scottish venue to host Leonardo’s drawings as part of the simultaneous display across the country, we are thrilled that our visitors will have the chance to see these intricate drawings up close”

David McDonald

“We have to be very careful, so these works can’t be shown on a permanent basis.

“When they are on display they can only be shown in very low light to protect the works, which are subject to fading.

“We want to preserve and protect the work of Leonardo da Vinci – one of the world’s best-known artists.”

After the exhibitions around the UK the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition of over 200 sheets at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, in May 2019.

There are almost 600 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Collection.


Watch: Curator Pippa Stephenson talks about the exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci drawings

They were originally bound into a single album, which was probably acquired in the 17th century by Charles II.

Beyond the 20 or so surviving paintings by Leonardo, the artist’s drawings are the main source of our knowledge of this extraordinary Renaissance man and his many activities.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said: “The exhibition at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 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.”