AN EXHIBITION of work by Leonardo da Vinci has inspired a range of projects across Sunderland.

Next February, 12 drawings by the Italian master will be on show at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Sunderland is one of only 12 UK venues chosen by the Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life Drawing exhibition, which will feature a total of 144 of the Renaissance master’s drawings

Now Sunderland Culture has unveiled a series of community, schools, adult learning and family programmes all inspired by Leonardo’s work as an artist, inventor and scientist.

Jo Cunningham, Exhibitions, Collections and Archive Manager at Sunderland Museum, explained: “We’re thrilled Sunderland was chosen by the Royal Collection Trust to host the exhibition and we’re sure people across the city will be eager to see the drawings in February.

“We’re using the drawings and the high-profile exhibition as a catalyst to inspire and educate through a programme of projects and activities for people of all ages.”

One such project, funded by Sunderland Council’s Washington Area Committee, is already underway – Andrew Tift, a renowned portrait artist famous for his paintings of leading politicians, has been working in three Washington residential homes to produce 15 portrait drawings of local pensioners. Andrew’s portraits will be on show as part of the exhibition in late February. Participatory artist Richard Bliss is working in the same care homes delivering a series of art sessions as part of the same project.

Meanwhile, MA students from the University of Sunderland are working with FabLab to create their own inventions inspired by Leonardo. Students were asked to respond to the question ‘if Leonardo was alive now, what would he create?’ Their finished work will go on display in the World Art case at the Museum during the exhibition’s run.

Another initiative will be an exhibition of drawings from the Museum and Winter Gardens’ own collection. These will include drawings by David Scott which were used to illustrate Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The schools programme includes the provision of resources for Leonardo-themed in-gallery and classroom activities; drawing and inventors’ trails; school visits and assembles delivered by museum staff; and a British Science Festival themed week with Leonardo-themed workshops (March 11- 18).

The family programme includes: a Leonardo-themed art week during February half-term (February 18 – 22); a Museum code-cracker trail during February with clues and puzzles linked to Leonardo’s drawings; an Inventors’ trail for families at the Museum, which will run from March to May; a takeover by the Dominic Wilcox Little Inventors project during the Easter holidays; a catapults family workshop on Wednesday, April 17, and a series of animation workshops led by local artist Sheila Graber. There will also be monthly exhibition sessions for families with children who have additional learning needs or learning disabilities.

The adult learning programme will include: a free talk by Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust on Wednesday, February 27 at University of Sunderland’s Murray Library Theatre (6.30pm – 8.30pm) and then a guided tour of the exhibition by Martin the following day (11am); a botanical illustration workshop at the Museum on Saturday, April 27 and life drawing classes exploring nude, drapery and theatrical costume on Sundays, March 3, 10, 17 and 24 (12.45 – 4.45pm.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in European art, with the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his most famous pieces.

The exhibition at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by Leonardo, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metal point. It will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques, including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

The exhibitions will be on shows at venues across the country from February 1 to May 6. The drawings will then be brought together to form part of an exhibition of more than 200 works at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, in what is described as “the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 65 years.”

The drawings reflect the Renaissance master’s interest in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany. Charles II acquired 550 of the polymath’s drawings, which had been bound into a single album, and they have remained in the Royal Collection since the 17th century.

After the Buckingham Palace exhibition, a selection of 80 drawings will travel to the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in November 2019, the largest group of his works to be shown in Scotland. The display will run from February 1 to May 6, 2019. The other venues are Ulster Museum, Belfast; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; National Museum Cardiff; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Leeds Art Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester Art Gallery; Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Southampton City Art Gallery.

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