Leonardo Da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson

Overview - The #1 New York Times bestseller

"A powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life...a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it." -- The New Yorker

"Vigorous, insightful." -- The Washington Post

"A masterpiece." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Luminous." -- The Daily Beast

He was history's most creative genius. 

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More About Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
The #1 New York Times bestseller

"A powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life...a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it." --The New Yorker

"Vigorous, insightful." --The Washington Post

"A masterpiece." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Luminous." --The Daily Beast

He was history's most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us?

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography.

Based 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.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history's most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history's most memorable smile. 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.

Leonardo's delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. 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.

  • ISBN-13: 9781501139154
  • ISBN-10: 1501139150
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 624
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Artists, Architects, Photographers
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Science & Technology
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical

BookPage Reviews

The original Renaissance man

BookPage Top Pick in Nonfiction, November 2017

Walter Isaacson, who recently authored the door-stopping, New York Times bestselling biography of Steve Jobs, turns his attention to Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in his latest book. Careful scouring of Leonardo’s notebooks, located variously in the United States, France, England and Italy, enabled Isaacson to write a work of breathtaking scope and intimacy. Leonardo, the bastard son of a notary, had what Isaacson calls “an instinct for keeping records.” He filled notebooks with observations, sketches, lists and questions about the world.

The many pleasures within Isaacson’s thick tome include gorgeous illustrations, beautiful and precise writing, surprising glimpses into Leonardo’s thinking and, perhaps most satisfyingly, a stunning survey of the artist’s best-known works. Isaacson closely observes the paintings, guiding readers to consider their complexity, implied movement and brilliant interplay of shadow and light. Isaacson also elaborates on Leonardo’s innovative approaches to painting, such as sfumato, the shading of edges through shadow rather than lines.

Leonardo’s life led him to the courts of Milan, Florence, various Italian cities and finally to France. Isaacson explores not only the artistic masterpieces that Leonardo left behind, but also the many remarkable treatises on anatomy, engineering and geography, and the projects that were left unfinished, including a gigantic bronze sculpture of a horse (his rival Michelangelo never let him forget that). Leonardo was a singular man, interested in a range of topics from flying machines and fetal development to the properties of water and the deadliest weapons on the battlefield. Rather than viewing Leonardo’s broad interests as distractions from his artistry, Isaacson helps readers see how the vigorous curiosity that animated these investigations enriched both Leonardo’s life and his art.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Walter Isaacson about Leonardo da Vinci

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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