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Leonardo da Vinci

Italian Painter, Designer, Sculptor, Inventor, Scientist, Architect, and Engineer

Leonardo da Vinci Photo
Movement: High Renaissance

Born: April 15, 1452 - Anchiano, Tuscany

Died: May 2, 1519 - Clos Lucé, Amboise (now France)

"I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."

Summary of Leonardo da Vinci

During the Italian High Renaissance, the spirit of Humanism abounded, in which artists were deeply entrenched in a study of the humanities to consistently better themselves as people of the world. A person immersed in the comprehension and accomplishment of such varied interests would become later termed a "Renaissance man." Leonardo da Vinci was the first prime exemplar of this term. Although his exhaustive personal interests led to his mastery of multiple fields, he is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. His iconic works continue to be studied and revered today.

Key Ideas

Leonardo was a polymath, someone whose level of genius encompassed many fields including invention, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He is known to have said, "Learning never exhausts the mind."
Despite his exhaustive explorations into multiple areas of expertise, Leonardo is primarily celebrated as a painter. Some of his works have consistently been regarded with a timeless, universal fame such as his enigmatic portrait The Mona Lisa, his most reproduced religious work of all time, The Last Supper, and his the Vitruvian Man, an early instructive drawing of precise spatial and anatomical symmetry.
Leonardo's contribution to the aesthetic and techniques of High Renaissance art evolved Early Renaissance forebears such as linear perspective, chiaroscuro, naturalism, and emotional expressionism. Yet he exceeded many prior artists through his particular meticulous precision and the introduction of new methods such as his sfumato technique, a new way to blend glazes that resulted in works that appeared so realistic, it was as if his subjects lived and breathed from within the pictorial plane.
Working at full capacity with both left and right sides of his brain, Leonardo's unquenchable curiosity and inventive imagination produced many contributions to society that were ahead of his time. He is credited with making the first drawings that preordained the parachute, helicopter, and military tank. His notebooks are nearly as esteemed as his artworks. Within, they represent a culmination of his life's work and his genius mind, containing drawings, scientific diagrams, and his philosophies on painting. They continue to be studied today by artists, scholars, and scientists worldwide.
Detail from Leonardo's <i>Virgin on the Rocks</i> (1491-92)

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt," Leonardo da Vinci famously said. He invented sfumato, an application of subtly colored glazes, to convey atmosphere and the subtle shifts of feeling across a human face.

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