Leonardo da Vinci, being one of the most endowed artists, was one of the key figures in the history of Renaissance. He was interested in a significant amount of sciences and his inventions have predicted the future weapons and mechanisms. However, one of the most significant contributions he made was in the field of art. He has not only invented several techniques which are now widely used by practicing artists, he has also redefined the way scientists view the art and its tasks. The primary purpose of this paper is to analyze the main contributions made by Leonardo da Vinci to the art theory and such techniques application in the most famous artworks created by him.
Leonardo lived in times when everything from art to the map of the world was changing. This time was called the Renaissance because it was the period when artists have been focusing on the Ancient artworks and viewing the world through the humanistic paradigm. This was a time when scholars started gathering any knowledge about the human body and how it is built. During the Renaissance, it was not honorable to be rich and not being interested in science, studying languages or performing particular kinds of art (Witteman 5). Leonardo da Vinci was one of these wealthy people and he was excited when he was getting a chance to study something deeper or to develop a particular skill. Despite not being admitted to entering the University, Leonardo was honored by almost every member of his surrounding because of a wide range of interests he had and his outstanding physical skills. However, the skill which Leonardo was passionate with was art. Soon, he became an apprentice of Andrea del Verrocchio who has taught him the base knowledge which was already used in the field of art and the experience the artist had with artistic means of expression. Nevertheless, Leonardo did not stop to know knew things, he experimented a lot to find out new ways of expressing reality through the process of painting (Leonardo 8-10) and implement them through his works, that is why at the end of his life he became a court painter for Francis I.
The most famous techniques which were invented by Leonardo are:
1. Linear perspective: to make things on the painting look more real Leonardo tried to use relative distances. Despite this practice being used by a lot of other artists of that time including Fillipo Brunelesky and Leone Batista Alberti, Leonardo has used it in the most successful manner so his artworks “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” had a considerable success;
2. Chiaroscuro: this is the practice of using dark and light tones in order to make the thing look like a three-dimensional model. The most successful implication of such technique was performed while painting the “Benuis Madonna”, which has inspired a lot of baroque and mannerist artists;
3. Sfumato: being quite close to the previous technique, this is a practice of combining lights and shadows in order to make the object look like a three-dimensional model. It was used for expressing the roundness of model as well. The “The Mona Lisa” appears as one of the most successful examples of such technique implication (Giancarlo 22-24).
Talking about the implications of Leonardo da Vinci techniques one would underline four artworks which represent the main techniques invented and exploited by him. Such paintings include “The Mona Lisa”, “The Last Supper”, “Adoration of the Magi”, and “The Battle of Anghiari”.
“The Mona Lisa” as one of the most famous paintings ever drawn by Leonardo da Vinci is an outstanding example of how the artist uses light and dark to give a woman portrayed “a more grace to her face” (Farago 319-320). Another tool which the artist was using is a different refraction of the horizon resulting so the line of horizon is different in the left and right sides of the face of the Mona Lisa. The face looks even more realistic because the artist has tried to convey even the tiny senses of the eye through the series of tints and shades. Thus, the masterful exploitation of light and dark has helped the artist to partially deceive the spectator making both the face and the landscape simultaneously perceptible (Farago 320).
1 The Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci
“The Last Supper” shows a good example of the successful usage of the linear perspective to make the combination of objects on the picture realistic and mitigate the spatial recession. However, the artwork does not simply acquire the combination of symbols built according to a linear perspective; it shows the example of how one system of proportion superposes another one to overcome the limitations of the centralized perspective (Farago 317). This painting was build according to the artists’ concern that every gesture or pose should reflect notions of the mind to describe a particular emotional movement (Farago 188-189) and this objective was successfully fulfilled.
2 The Last Supper Leonardo da Vinci
“Adoration of the Magi” has made Leonardo accept the challenge to put a complex composition of figures into a deeply recessed space. Nevertheless, this challenge was solved due to representing the spatial recession as a combination of light and dark planes. This painting also shows his attempts to imply curvy-linear perspective as those opposing the conventional and artificial linear perspective which is not able to represent the reality as the artist was viewing it (Farago 316).
3 The Adoration of Magi Leonardo da Vinci
“The Battle of Anghiari” was also challenging for Leonardo because he needed to create an alternative approach to adjust the key figures with the settings through two types of perspectives: “color perspective” and “the perspective diminution”. By experimenting with colors and perspectives Leonardo tried to adjust the painting so as to be seen as through the direct vision of the landscape. Only different combinations of light and shadow are able to establish the border between the reality and the imagination. Although implemented solutions not eliminating all problems connected with the distortion of the figures depicted at the intrinsically close range, they help to provide “a frame of reference” making the image both optically compelling and spatially integrated (Farago 319).
4 The Battle of Anghiari Leonardo da Vinci
Consequently, Leonardo da Vinci has made a considerable impact on the development of modern art techniques and practices. Despite his tools being radically new for his time, now they are used by most of the artists who want to make their artworks look more real and better exemplify characteristics and features of the depicted object. The persistent work on different kinds of perspectives and multiple efforts and experiments with colors and shades have helped to depict facial expressions of people and drawing objects using three dimensions. Invented techniques have outrun the time helping the art to do a step forward towards the way how the reality is exemplified by modern artists.
Farago, Claire J. Biography and Early Art Criticism of Leonardo Da Vinci. Garland, 1999.
Leonardo. The Wisdom of Leonardo Da Vinci. Philosophical Library/Open Road, 2010.
Leonardo, and Claire J. Farago. Leonardo Da Vinci, Selected Scholarship. Garland, 1999.
Maiorino, Giancarlo. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Daedalian Mythmaker. Pennsylvania State UP, 1992.
Witteman, Barbara. Leonardo Da Vinci. Bridgestone Books, 2004.
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