Category Archives: Art gallery visit – Da Vinci drawings at Nottingham Castle/Surface Gallery Nottingham

Art gallery visit – Da Vinci drawings at Nottingham Castle/Surface Gallery Nottingham

For a short time there have been ten drawings on display here in Nottingham, and today I battled with hordes of school children to get a look at them.

I learnt a few facts about his patronage and rivalry with Michelangelo, and that among his contemporaries he was a leader in drawings and sketchbooks. He drove patrons mad with his unfinished work, and actually left many drawings but few completed paintings! An interesting video outlined his techniques of bone ash and silverpoint, and how his inks and chalks were made [saliva was a good binder apparently!].

His drawings are so fine and detailed, I felt the only way to look properly was to stand there and draw them, along with the school kids being forced to do it!

These drawings were all undertaken by the artist around 1490 to 1510.

In the face of St Ann, the curvature across the face is so clear. His shading is delicate and precise, and some areas he did wet the black chalk.

I love the cats page, such careful observation, but then towards the bottom of the page there are lions and a dragon like he was using the cats  to work up to these!

The infants limbs shows how he practised as well – the hands and feet have more lines, like he had the same trouble with them that I do!

The red chalked male nude had amazing detail in the muscle groups, and from my anatomy knowledge, it looks like all of them are correct. Lastly the horses in pen and ink have quite sweeping marks. His shading carefully defines the cylindrical body, and the muscles again. I wonder if he saw dissected horses, like Stubbs?

Here are my humble efforts, all done in a bout 5 minutes but it really made me look at the drawings in detail – a method I’m starting to use on all gallery visits.

Further along in the gallery is the permanent exhibition and a couple of paintings caught my eye.


The Moorish Wall, Cyprus. David Bomberg. 1948

I had vaguely heard of this artist but am now intrigued to find out more. This has quick expressive marks, with some dragged through other paint. It reminded me of the Auerbach painting from yesterday, but is before Auerbach really got started in the 50’s. Close to, the paint is thick and heaped up with visible brush marks and looks quite abstract. I think it looks best stood far back when the contrasting tones stand out and the form of the wall becomes apparent.


Tom O’Shanter. 1825 Eugene Delacroix

Again, not a painter I know much about, but I loved this little scene of the galloping horse and rider being chased by ghostly figures. The loose way the horse and rider are painted gives them motion. There’s a few details in the bridle and horse eyes but thats it. These two look like they’re riding for their life. I need to look up the Burns poem and see what it’s all about!


Evelyn Gibbs. 1943. The Press Shop.

This local artist was sworn to top secrecy in the war, and painted scenes of the war effort in Nottingham, including bomb damage. Since they had access to photographs quite easily then, this seems an inspirational idea. Looking at this painting I could hear the sound of those machines – the whirling marks and figure shadows in the background give it that dynamic look. I bet it sounded deafening in there. Another artist I need to look up – these look like they were sketched quite quickly, but their perspective is accurate.

Surface Gallery, Nottingham


This artist won the Nottingham castle open prize and got a 3  week residency, which she has certainly made the most of!

She’s used just about every medium to describe the sufferings of people in the world, and strongly suggests the misery of migrants at sea.

There is a sound installation of spoken word and underwater sounds which immediately immersed me in the theme. Large and small drawings show a bolshy looking mermaid [suggesting she rules??], and people suffering with blood dripping. On another wall are very effective collages of people stuck to blue flowing fabric. Next to these were pictures of Jules Verne’s 20,000 leagues under the sea – showing all the monsters and unfamiliar things they faced. I’m guessing this is analogous to the travels of migrants.

I thought for 3 weeks work, this was a great show. I felt quite immersed in the sea theme and the sufferings of the refugee crisis was something I had drawn in my D1 final assignment, so it really resonated with me. Also, I am looking after some refugees in my work, and I have tried to watch and read as much about their journeys as possible. It made me realise I paint best when I’m really affected by something.

Phew, I’m exhausted by 2 days of looking at so much art work…but so many ideas!