ALMOST 10,000 tickets have already been snapped up for a major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings currently being hosted at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

The Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition opened early last month (February) as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Sunderland is one of only 12 UK venues chosen by Royal Collection Trust (RCT) to simultaneously host the exhibition, which features a total of 144 of Leonardo drawings. The exhibition will run to May 6.

Record numbers are visiting the nationwide exhibitions, according to Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at RCT, who hosted a sold-out talk about Leonardo’s life and work at the University of Sunderland’s Murrary Library Lecture Theatre last night.

During a question and answer session after his talk, Martin explained the way in which drawings were chosen for each of the 12 venues: “Sunderland certainly got one of the best selections,” he said.

His talk paid particular attention to the 12 drawings on display in Sunderland, explaining how – and sometimes where and why – the Italian master created the drawings.

“We’re thrilled that so many people across the country are going to see these unique and beautiful drawings, we’ve had record numbers of engagement and I would urge anyone from Sunderland or the north east who haven’t yet seen the drawings to do so,” he said.

“His drawings give us more of an insight into his mind and thought processes than his paintings do and we’re fortunate to have so many of his drawings in such good condition to study and admire. They’re in tremendous condition for their age – some look as if they could have been drawn yesterday,” Martin added.

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture who deliver the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “Martin gave us a brilliant insight into the mind of a genius and we’re delighted that the exhibition has proved so popular.

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so much of Leonardo’s work in the north east in the same place at the same time and there is still plenty of time for people to book their tickets.”

Following the exhibitions at the 12 venues the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in more than 65 years.

A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November, the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

A range of artistic projects, organised by Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, have been organized to complement the exhibition.

These include life drawing classes, inspired by Leonardo, and the first of which will be held this Sunday (March 3). Artist Theresa Poulton will explore the different materials and methods used by Leonardo using his drawing of ‘A Masquerader in the Guise of a Prisoner’ as inspiration. Materials will be provided and some drawing experience is recommended.

Tickets for Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, costing £2.50, can be pre-booked online by visiting www.sunderlandmuseum.org.uk or at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ reception during opening hours. Entry for under-16s is free, but they will need a ticket, and places for the life drawing classes can be booked on the Sunderland Culture website – www.sunderlandculture.org.uk

For information and updates on the supporting activities and events, log on to the website or check social media using the hashtags #SunderlandLeo and #Leonardo500.

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