Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci
This week I read Leonardo da Vinci a biography by Walter Benjamin. I listened to it over two days while making art, I become completely immersed in the Renaissance. It was amazing!
Even though I'm basically obsessed with art, I really didn't know much about Leonardo before reading this book. I'm not especially attracted to that style of painting... but this author has been recommended to me so I had to pick this up. I'm so happy I did because it was excellent!
The book is engaging and easy to follow. He starts with a timeline which makes it easy to keep track of what is happening and where. The book continues in chronological order with some break out chapters covering individual masterpieces. The author ties it all back together in the end highlighting the most important things we can learn from Leonardo's life. It's well researched with references to previous biographies, art historians, Leonardo's notebooks and the authors own observations. Here are some things I learned from the book:
- Leonardo was left handed. He used a unique "mirrored script" and his drawings have left handed cross hatching.
- He was a vegetarian! I've been vegetarian my entire life so I thought that was cool. He would even buy caged animals at market just to set them free.
- He loved luxurious gowns of pinks and reds.
- He and Michelangelo did not get along but he did with Raphael. Both were younger than Leonardo.
- I didn't know that he did theater set design or was involved with the military. Some of his mechanical drawings were specifically for these projects.
- Mona Lisa had eyebrows! WHAAATTT!
Aside from facts, I found the work style of Leonardo inspiring. He was curious and paid very close attention to details. He also did something that is the complete opposite of what I've always been taught: "draw what you see; not what you know". Leonardo went way beyond what he saw using his understanding of science and anatomy to create an emotional element to his work.
Such a great book I highly recommend it!