Leonardo Da Vinci|Walter Isaacson
Leonardo Da Vinci
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The #1 New York Times bestseller from Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography that is "a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it...Most important, it is a powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life" (The New Yorker).

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo da Vinci's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson "deftly reveals an intimate Leonardo" (San Francisco Chronicle) in 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. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. 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.

In the "luminous" (Daily Beast) Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson describes how 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 to be imaginative and, like talented rebels in any era, to think different. Here, da Vinci "comes to life in all his remarkable brilliance and oddity in Walter Isaacson's ambitious new biography...a vigorous, insightful portrait" (The Washington Post).


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

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.