Drawing Lessons II – Leonardo da Vinci

A Brief Overview of the Historical and Artistic Significance

Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawings

??????????? Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance architect, musician, inventor, engineer, sculptor, and painter.?Though considered one of the greatest artists who ever lived, very few of da Vinci?s paintings, sculptures or other artworks were completed. Across the world, there are only fifteen known da Vinci paintings. Leonardo was also considered to be one of the greatest scientific and engineering minds in the history of mankind. Though very few of his scientific inventions or engineering designs ever came to fruition, or were produced during his lifetime, Leonardo?s ideas and genius influence and inspire artists, scientists, engineers, theologians and writers today, close to 500 years after his death.

Much of our knowledge about Leonardo da Vinci, as well as the significant and ongoing effect of his work, can be attributed to the over 6,000 pages of drawings and notes he produced during his life. Born in 1492, in a small Italian town, Leonardo began a lifetime of passionate unceasing drawing and writing when he was a young child. These thousands of pages Leonardo left for mankind are amassed in a collection of volumes which he called?the Notebooks.

Throughout his life, Leonardo handmade all of his Notebooks, crafting them with leather covers. The Notebooks represent Leonardo?s? scientific and art studies–sketches, drawing, and writings on countless subjects including human and animal anatomy, light and shade, perspective and visual perception, anatomy, botany and landscape, geography, the physical sciences and astronomy, architecture, sculpture, and inventions.?He began drawing and sketching in his Notebooks when he was five years old.

Zollner (2001) wrote: ?His first biographers make frequent reference to the young artist?s outstanding facility in the art of drawing, for instance in Vasari?s account: ‘Besides this, Leonardo did beautiful and detailed drawings on paper which are unrivalled for the perfection of their finish.’ The young Leonardo does seem to have displayed extraordinary talent as a draughtsman at a very early age.? (pp. 7-8).

Through the drawings and writings in his?Notebooks, Leonardo re-imagined the world. He pioneered a new world view about art, science, medicine, engineering, philosophy, and religion. Klein (2010) reflects ?His sketches offered a vision of a distant future in which people would understand the forces of nature and work with machines.? (p. 3).

On one page in the?Notebooks are drawings of flying machines and designs for advanced war technology. On another page,?one finds a delicate rendering of a fetus inside of a womb. Other pages in the same Notebook include aerial drawings of Italian landscapes with minute attention to details of the vegetation. Leonardo began his ardent study and reflection on nature when drawing from the landscapes around his childhood home of Empoli. From that time, he embraced nature and found innate, genuine beauty in the smallest plant or animal form. His love and fascination with birds, and flying, was a passion born in his early years and a theme in?his work throughout his life.

Capra (2007) writes the following: Throughout his life he studied, drew, and painted the rocks and sediments of the Earth, shaped by water, the growth of plants shaped by their metabolism; and the anatomy of the animal body in motion. He used scientific understanding of the forms of nature as the intellectual underpinning of his art, and he used his drawings and paintings as tools of scientific analysis. Thus Leonardo?s studies of nature?s living forms represent a seamless unity of art and science. (p. 259).

Leonardo?s synthesis of art and science, and his applications to fields of design, engineering, and philosophical thought were brilliant and unparalleled.


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