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Posted May 8, 2010
Kenneth Clark. Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of His Development as an Artist. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952. xvi + 203 pp.
Reviewed by: Samson C. Tsahiridis
This book begins with an introduction into the life of Leonardo Di Vinci as a painter. Clark, the author, tells a brief history of Leonardo's youth, the artists that influenced him: Verrocchio, Settignano, and Pollajuolo. Leonardo was not only an inventor and scientist but had a psychological side to his character; doing all his work meticulously that was later seen as 'Leonardesque'. There was no known or efficient amount of work credited to Leonardo's painting abilities before 1472 AD. Leonardo's earliest paintings, like the "Paris Virgin of the Rocks," dated from after 1472 AD. The author states there is no evidence of Leonardo's professional work until 1478 AD. In his teen years, Leonardo at times, surpassed the brilliance of many famous artists and teachers of his day. Leonardo would surpass his master Verrocchio's talent while still his apprentice.
The book is divided into 'plates' describing each work of art in detail. The chapters are broken down by a segment of years of Leonardo's life and work. There is a section of Leonardo's paintings at the end of the book that the reader can refer to as one reads the story. Leonardo shows his intentions in his paintings. Each method of painting or stroke of the paintbrush means something and reflects the unique and innovative, sometimes newly developed, style of Leonardo. Leonardo, being a scientist, adapted the standards of academic Florentine art between his sketching and his paintings. Leonardo seems to not have finished paintings or does not utilize his full talent in the finish product of some paintings due to a diligent schedule but usually is called upon to supervise other's work.
The book is well-written and shows the mark of an educated individual, Clark. The book explains Leonardo's ambition to sketch, draw, paint, and invent in many contexts that involve architecture, sciences of the era, religion, motive to invent, neutrality in politics, and warfare. The book describes Leonardo's manuscripts, drawings, and the Codice Atlantico that he started to write in detail only after thirty years of age which project his thought process. The sketches drawn were of war machines, domes for cathedrals, town planning, and other structural designs. Leonardo was self-taught in Latin and drew a sketch of anything that interested or stimulated his mind. The book states the personal tastes and feelings as a painter in Leonardo's Trattato della Pittura.
Clark is not certain about his presumptions of Leonardo but states many inquiries of Leonardo's paintings and draws logical conclusions to inform the reader that Leonardo was a man of mystery. The author writes passages from the Trattato that show Leonardo to be a romantic painter, opposed to his contemporaries, painting in the forms of the 'quattrocento' or the enclosed forms of the high Renaissance. The book creates an atmosphere that Leonardo was loved, hated, feared, an intelligent man, a genius, proud, and fearful of politics and the authorities and the only thing that kept him going and staying neutral in his beliefs or loyalty to any government, was his insatiable passion for perfection.
I have more of my review that is not posted.
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