Show unites great Renaissance drawing collections

Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:44pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A new exhibition at London's British Museum unites arguably the world's two greatest collections of Renaissance drawings and underlines their growing importance to artists throughout the 15th century.

"Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings" displays around 100 works by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Mantegna, Michelangelo and Titian in a show already being hailed by critics as a five-star event.

It combines works from the museum's own collection and from that of the Uffizi in Florence. The show runs from April 22 to July 25 and then transfers to the Uffizi.

The exhibition explains how drawings were used to prepare for major paintings and frescoes and, later in the 15th century, how they became works of art in their own right, particularly with the arrival of print-making from northern Europe.

In addition to often detailed and exquisite pictures of figures, limbs and drapery are fast, rough sketches by the likes of Leonardo who used pen and ink drawings as a way of brainstorming and arriving at ideas for major works.

"One can sense the excitement as their quills raced over the paper to keep pace with the flow of ideas," said British Museum director Neil MacGregor in introductory remarks for the show.

The show also underlines how the development of paper, a cheaper alternative to vellum, was key to drawing's expansion.


<p>'Warrior' by Leonardo da Vinci. REUTERS/Trustees of the British Museum/Handout</p>