Elliott Fienberg

Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson

I’ve been a fan of Walter Isaacson’s work since reading the Steve Jobs biography, in addition to The Innovators. His latest book on Leonardo DaVinci was a beautiful read, both in terms of the story of Leonardo but also the images inside the book.

DaVinci had an active mind that saw him bouncing around all kinds of projects. By today’s standards he would’ve been diagnosed with ADD. His background in a combined study of art and engineering came from his work in creating theatrical sets for pageants. Alongside conceptualizing all sorts of schemes for the military or city planning, he was as most people know, painting commissions. However a lot of these paintings were left unfinished.

While some might be quick to say that it was a disappointing career aside from creating The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, this lack of focus is precisely what made him a genius. And this is also what made his few finished paintings so spectacular. Everything he had been learning along the way was packed into these canvases.

The most important part about DaVinci’s story is that he was curious. He gave himself the task of seeking out all sorts of bizarre elements in nature to observe, such as the tongue of a woodpecker or the shape which water flows on in any given scenario, and then he would try to tie these concepts together if possible. He was interested in observing some of the most universal forces that shape our world, and most importantly the human connection to nature.

While I couldn’t wrap my head around some of the finer points about painting that are discussed in this book, overall it was a leisurely read and it sparked all kinds of new ideas.

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