Leonardo Da Vinci Biography | Oil Paintings
4-15-1452 Vinci, ITA – 5-2-1519 Clos Lucé, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Leonardo da Vinci is the symbol of the Italian Renaissance, but he is also the prototype of modern man. His paintings reflect his wide-ranging activities and talents. He was an inventor, architect, engineer, city planner, an expert in anatomy, botany, astronomy, and a writer of treatises and poems. According to Leonardo, painting is the sum of all the sciences, leading to a knowledge of the world and to a kind of creation of it.
Born in a small village in Tuscany, the illegitimate son of a notary. Leonardo da Vinci did his apprenticeship in Verrocchio's workshop in Florence with Perugino and Botticelli. His training was eclectic, comprising the diverse techniques of painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts. Even as a boy, he sketched impressions, observations, and ideas for compositions. By the end of the 1470s, Leonardo was one of the most promising young artists in Florence. But, his dislike of workshop rules led him to distance himself from the Tuscan art scene. Despite a certain awkwardness typical of an inexperienced painter, Leonardo demonstrates in Annunciation from the very beginning the distance separating him from the polished, vacuous manner of the Florentine School. A humid, misty atmosphere pervades the background of the scene.
In 1482, he went to the court of Ludovico the Moor in Milan. Lombardy became his second home and he spent twenty-four years there, in two long periods between 1482-99 and 1506-13. During the first period, he painted his Virgin of the Rocks. We can thank the humility of two painters for Leonardo's first masterpiece in Milan, Virgin on the Rocks. The de Predis brothers had been commissioned to paint an altarpiece, but they left the central panel to their illustrious Florentine guest. Since they were unable to reach an agreement about payment when it was finished, Leonardo delivered a copy a few years later and kept the original all his life. The backdrop of glistening rocks is innovative, with its fascinating natural light, reflections, and distant haze.
Also during the first stay in Milan, he painted The Last Supper. The composition dazzled contemporaries, but Leonardo’s experimental fresco technique failed and the picture deteriorated. This was symptomatic of Leonardo’s attitude to painting: the intellectual challenge of creation fascinated him, but the execution was a chore, and many of his artistic projects were left unfinished.
Mona Lisa, Most (overrated) Famous Portrait in the History of Art.
Leonardo da Vinci spent the second period in Milan, before ending his days in France. Leonardo’s genius lay in the breadth of his interests and his infinite curiosity. Besides to his art, his notebooks display a fascination for aeronautics, engineering, mathematics and the natural world. Among the qualities that make Leonardo da Vinci work unique are the innovative techniques which he used in laying on the paint. A small portrait, known as the Mona Lisa or "La Gioconda", the laughing one, the most famous portrait in the history of art. Is the fruit of a lengthy and tormented process. Leonardo was in the habit of executing his works patiently and meticulously and insisted on the right to retouch them over the years. Its fame rests, in particular, on the elusive smile on the woman's face, its mysterious quality brought about by the fact that the artist has subtly shadowed the corners of the mouth and eyes so that the exact nature of the smile cannot be determined. Mona Lisa's elusive smile, in fact, results from the application of an infinite series of thin layers of color. The shadowy quality came to be called "sfumato" or Leonardo's smoke, a blending of tones so exquisite that the forms seem to have no lines or borders.
The Mona Lisa is a Painting that’s Famous for Being Famous.
A former Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa on August 21, 1911, and wanted to take it back to Italy. For more than a day, no one at the Louvre even noticed the painting missing. The two-year manhunt and press coverage served as a giant ad campaign for the painting. The Mona Lisa was a good painting but not a known painting nor the best, that all changed with the excited headline copy for her search and people could read (fake news) about how it was the greatest painting ever. When La Gioconda returned to the Louvre in 1914, she had become a worldwide heroine. Da Vinci’s portrait became bigger than a piece of art, it became a painting that’s famous for being famous.
When the Duchy of Milan fell in 1499, Leonardo returned to Florence, Vying with Michelangelo in the frescoes in Palazzo Vecchio. Upon his return to Milan in 1506, he executed the Virgin and Child with St. Anne. Leonardo began this painting during his second stay in Milan and completed it in France, but it was based on a fine cartoon the artist had made before in Florence. It possesses the characteristics of his late work and epitomizes his search for a mysterious affinity between man and nature, in an uninterrupted interplay of sky, water, rocks, fields, animals, figures, and emotions. Finally, invited by King Francis I, he moved to France, where he painted his last works. He died in Cloux Castle, near Amboise.
Christ's Last Meal in The Last Supper, Duck with Orange Slices.
Commissioned by Ludovico the Moor, The Last Supper was done by Leonardo who by this time had been in Milan for twelve years, chose not to use the usual fresco technique. Instead, he attempted to make the paint adhere to the wall by applying a double layer of the preparation, to achieve a subtlety of execution that was not otherwise possible. Also, he radically modified the scene's traditional composition. In all the previous Last Suppers, the table with Christ and the Disciples had a wall behind it and Judas is generally seated on the opposite side from the others. Here Leonardo places all the figures on a single plane, in groups of three, with a receding background in perspective behind them. The physiognomies and gestures of the larger than life figures are also novel. Leonardo singled out the most dramatic moment of the Gospel story when Christ announces that one of his Disciples will betray him. These words trigger a who;e range of emotions, including anger, resignation. Fear, pain, shock, and dismay.
The recent restoration of the Last Supper in 1999 has made certain things more visible. The rectangles leading back in perspective along the walls are Flemish tapestries nailed to the wall in the “thousand flowers style”. The light entering the painting is from the left of the viewer, off the canvas, so the right-hand side of the painting is lit while the left side is in shadows.
Judas, the traitor, is the only person resting his elbow on the table and leaning forward. In this position, he is looking back and his face is in shadow. He seems to be pushed by the impetuous Peter who, brandishing a knife, leans toward Christ as if to defend him. Close to Christ is Thomas with his index finger pointing upward in a questioning gesture. Leonardo also used this gesture in other works and in completely different context. With a touch of sympathetic caricature, Raphael painted Leonardo in the center of the School of Athens with his index finger in the same position.
Leonardo used novel means to achieve a new level of communication, one that was not based on artistic convention but on emotional human situations. Aware of the limits of painting, which he himself described as silent poetry, he did not hesitate to adopt new, unusual, and even irreverent methods. For instance, he used to stop ordinary people in the street to use as credible live models, he observed the gestures used by orators and preachers to emphasize their words, and he studied the sign language of deaf-mutes. This is especially evident with the three apostles having a heated discussion of the right side of the Last Supper.
Finally, on the set table, one can distinguish the lacework of the tablecloth, pewter dishes, glasses, pitchers of water, wine and the tray of the main dish of the Last Supper, duck with orange slices. These descriptive details, painted with such meticulous realism, can anticipate the birth of the still life genre.
Was Da Vinci only a Court Painter?
Leonardo spent almost his entire career “ in the service” of powerful lords, not only the Duke of Milan and the King of France but also the Marchioness of Mantua and Cesare Borgia, the pope's illegitimate son. For all these, he executed the kind of work typically commissioned from court painters, which included portraits and other paintings, coats of arms, stage sets for grand parties and theatrical events, decorations, and cartographic surveys. In 1482, when he went to the Milan of Ludovico the Moor, the thirty-year-old Leonardo presented himself to the Duke with a letter listing his talents as inventor, civil and military engineer, and “ in times of peace”, great artist. Ludovico the Moor was Leonardo's contemporary and was the ambitious lord of a “modern” state, but his lifeline was still linked to the taste and splendor of a Gothic court, which revolved around the glorification of the Duke himself. When Leonardo was invited to France, he was already over sixty. His arrival in Amboise marked a turning point in French culture, which King Francis I urged to follow the models of the Renaissance. At the French court, the aging Leonardo was venerated as a patriarch and prophet. The king's final embrace of the dying genius has become legendary.
Art Movement History: Renaissance.
Artists Influencing Leonardo: Andrea de Verrocchio, Antoni de Pollaiuolo.
He Traveled To France.
Painters Leonardo da Vinci Influenced: Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Marco d'Oggione.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.