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CRITIC'S CHOICE

REVIEW

Located off Canonbury Square in Islington, the Estorick Collection is one of London's most enterprising cultural institutions. In the way historians such as Alan Powers have brought 20th-century architects out of the shadows (Francis Pollen, for instance) through research and publishing, so the Estorick continually enlarges our understanding of its own particular field: the Italian visual arts of the 20th century.

It does this partly through rotating displays of the permanent collection, including works of strong architectural character - Mario Sironi's intense cityscapes; De Chirico's deserted piazzas; and Giorgio Morandi's still-lifes, their forms like clustered buildings in an Italian town. It also supplements its holdings with well-chosen exhibitions that always convey a sense of discovery. The latest, Italian Abstraction 1910-1960, is one of the most worthwhile and illuminating to date.

Giacomo Balla's crayon sketch, Speeding Automobile, reminds us that, with Futurism, Italy was briefly in the vanguard of 20th-century art, and the show includes some well-known post-war names (Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri) - but much else is unfamiliar. If some paintings seem derivative of work done elsewhere in Europe or the US, there is real quality too. Curator Renato Miracco suggests the inuence of Italian Rationalist architecture on the 1930s geometric pieces; the 1939 drawing by Osvaldo Licini (above) is called simply Architettura. The exhibition continues to 24 September, with further works on show at the Italian Cultural Institute to 1 September ( www. estorickcollection. com).

The Italian theme continues with a number of exhibitions opening next month in Oxford, all devoted to Leonardo da Vinci and illustrating the breadth of his interests.

Leonardo and the Mathematical Arts is at the Museum of the History of Science; Leonardo's Plants at the Botanic Garden; and Imagining Leonardo at the Ashmolean - centred on a group of key drawings and exploring his inuence.

Magadalen College and Christ Church Picture Gallery are also joining in ( www. universalleonardo. org). These shows should make a substantial prelude to the V&A's Leonardo:

Experience, Experiment, Design, opening on 14 September.

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