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Leonardo da Vinci (2017)

by Walter Isaacson

Other authors: Lene Stokseth (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,133615,839 (4.21)17
"He was history's most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us? The [bestselling biographer] brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography. Drawing on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from standing at the intersection of the humanities and technology. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history's most memorable smile on the Mona Lisa. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo's lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions. His ability to combine art and science, made iconic by his drawing of what may be himself inside a circle and a square, remains the enduring recipe for innovation. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it; to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different."--Jacket.… (more)
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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Nearly everything there is to know about one of the most amazing people we have record of. ( )
  JorgeousJotts | Dec 3, 2021 |
Wanted to love this, but it ended up falling short for me. I wanted Leonardo to have more gravitas than he actually does. ( )
  dualmon | Nov 17, 2021 |
Not knowing much about Leonardo da Vinci this biography covers many aspects of his life in fine details. However, the book is a bit dissatisfying in a number of aspects. Firstly, especially at the beginning the author inserts himself into the story - not sure why. Secondly, the author spends a lot of time on the art of Leonardo. This is great - that is what he is best known for. True, there is also a lot about his powers of observation. But we do not really get to know much about him, other than that he had tickets on himself, he saw himself more as an engineers than an artist, and he found it difficult to finish off works. Perhaps this is because there is not much else to tell. Although it was a work of fiction, I felt I learnt more about Leonardo from a book I read recently titled Tuscan Daughter by Lisa Rochon.

I read this as a e-book - not ideal, as one can't easily flick back to view the photos of the art. However, that is one great thing about this book - wonderfully illustrated. ( )
  robeik | Oct 29, 2021 |
Disappointing for its repetitiveness and its general lack of effective organization. I pushed through to the end -- primarily to gain insight into "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa," but the effort exceeded the value. ( )
  markburris | Jul 11, 2021 |
The thought and curiosity of Leonardo da Vinci is on display on every page in Walter Isaacson's masterful biography. Leading the reader like a tour guide through the many places and phases of Leonardo's life, Isaacson provides both details of the art but also context through capturing the background of the history, persons, and achievements that were experienced and made by Leonardo throughout his lengthy career.

I was impressed with Leonardo's constant creativity noted as much, if not more, in his notebooks and in his completed works; which included drawings, sculpture, paintings, and more. Present are the differences that made Leonardo unique -- his left-handedness, his holistic views, his curiosity, and a relentless desire to know that made possible his improbable life as an artist, scientist, thinker, dreamer, and mathematician. The list of his interests is almost endless just as his curiosity was boundless. In the tradition of thinkers going back to Aristotle he revered man's desire for knowledge as seen in his statement: "The desire to know is natural to good men."

Born out of wedlock in 1452 in the town of Vinci, he spent most of his life in Florence, Milan, and Rome, ending his days in France as a guest of the King. It was a peripatetic life premised on the primacy of sight and mind applied to the world around him in ways that seem phenomenal in retrospect and which, in spite of his successes and honors, were mitigated by his inability to finish projects. This too, impressed me as the wonders of his sketches and notes match and in some ways exceed the art he produced; art that includes "The Last Supper", the "Mona Lisa", and much more.

Isaacson captures much of the wonder, but leaves the reader perplexed at times by his inability to truly penetrate the mind of Leonardo. The length of the text suggests a completeness that is not quite enough; perhaps no biographer could capture the totality of the magnificence of Leonardo. If ever there was an exemplar of the Renaissance Man it would be this polymath personnage from the small Italian village of Vinci. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Isaacsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stokseth, LeneTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clercq, Anne-Sophie deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerlier, JérémieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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(Introduction) Around the time that he reached the unnerving milestone of turning thirty, Leonardo da Vinca wrote a letter to the ruler of Milan listing the reasons he should be given a job.
Leonardo da Vinci had the good luck to be born out of wedlock.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"He was history's most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us? The [bestselling biographer] brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography. Drawing on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from standing at the intersection of the humanities and technology. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history's most memorable smile on the Mona Lisa. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo's lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions. His ability to combine art and science, made iconic by his drawing of what may be himself inside a circle and a square, remains the enduring recipe for innovation. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it; to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different."--Jacket.

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