“Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson— Connecting Art to Science

Isaacson, Walter. “Leonardo da Vinci” Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Connecting Art to Science

Amos Lassen

Leonardo da Vinci was a complex, giant figure and history’s most creative genius. Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson gives us a look at how his art connects to his science to his science. We see how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves and these include curiosity, observation and imagination. Even though he produced two of the most famous paintings in history, “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa” he saw himself as much a man of science and technology as an artist. He was passionate and almost obsessively and he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. He stood at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences and we see this in his made iconic by his drawing of “Vitruvian Man”.

His creativity came out of his passion. He did what he had to do in order to create and this meant peeling flesh off the faces of cadavers, drawing the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics to see how light rays strike the cornea and produced illusions of changing perspectives in “The Last Supper”. Isaacson also describes how We read about how his lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo was also something of a misfit: he illegitimate, a homosexual, a vegetarian, left-handed and he was easily distracted and at times heretical. What we really see here is the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and in other, a willingness to question it and to be imaginative.

Isaacson, aside from being a scholar, is a fine writer and a teacher. He shares lessons on his pages about the roles that curiosity and observance play in our lives. There is something new on every page.


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