It has been long since anything is written about past era artists like Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and others. They all have classic contribution in art. In the age when one can write in volumes about contemporary artist, it may seem queer to some, the mention of past era artists. But I need to. The reason is important and to be considered from social point of view. We all know artists are the mirrors of the society. History has also witnessed their valuable contribution. One such artists who has contributed to society in the fullest extent is Leonardo da Vinci. His contribution was not only restricted to his country but to the whole world. The following is a brief introduction to his socially viable work and also how his share as an inventor, civil engineer, military engineer, astronomer, geologist, anatomist and partly an astronaut a researcher, scientist and engineer and many more practical aspects has resulted in assisting his art and how we have with us the treasure of his illustrated pages with detailed observations and outlines of inventions. He was marvellous in every field that is mentioned here. It is interesting that his art bloomed due the scientific instincts and his scientific nature bud out of art. So, we can conclude that a true artist also must have an instinct of scientist.
Leonardo da Vinci had been the greatest experimental scientist of his age and an acknowledged artist. His ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Last Supper’ are classic paintings one with mystery and awesome creativity and other mesmerizing too.
Since his school days he was sharp in solving mathematical problems and also showed notable talent in paintings. When he was sixteen years old he worked as an apprentice of artist Andrea del Verrocchio. In his guidance, Leonardo learned to work with wood, marble and metal. Andrea then insisted that Leonardo studied Latin and Greek classics, philosophy, mathematics and anatomy.
As I write this article, I really wonder how many artists take efforts to go out of the way to learn something different from what they intend to paint or install.Hardly a few do this, and only those who know that referring to subjects other than art, is only the way to be a true artist. An artists should have knowledge of various fields.
Reading recommended books on art and improvising one’s own skill is the sign of academic excellence and not of a true artistic passion.Leonardo’s mentor, Andrea wanted Leonardo to become a true artist and knew that study and knowledge of various fields was necessary for it. Sadly, now art schools have become production houses of artists with degrees and very little understanding of other fields. Newly studying and budding artists are in hurry to have exhibition of their artworks and intend to be famous- famous and likeablelike instant foods! Following the guidance of Andrea, Leonardo completed his apprenticeship at the age of twenty six and he was admitted in Artists’ Guild, where one could obtain their own patrons. This was a step towards progress. He invented a novel musical instrument- a lute in the shape of a horse’s head in which teeth served to select the tones- this captured the attention of Duke Ludovico Sforza, the then ruler of Milan. This opened the doors for Leonardo to try and experiment his conceived projects. Art came closer to politics as he got the patron.
|Image wikipedia (A page showing Leonardo's study of a foetus in the womb (c. 1510) Royal Library,)|
That was the age when kingdoms of Italy frequently strived with each other. The artist Leonardo da Vinci devoted his art for military equipment design. Almost at the same time was suffering from plague, which is a disease spread by rat bite, he was aware of it and knew to prevent it sewers needed modification. So he worked on his projects, though they were not approved. But here acceptance or rejection is not an issue, his social conscience ids admirable. He was socially aware artist.
His exceptional anatomical drawings are still considered the perfect anatomical drawings. He developed them while in Milan, with the help of famous doctors and also by attending dissections himself to observe the internal make of human body. Obviously, his drawings show a profound understanding of the anatomical structure of a man. His skull drawings showed for the first time, the openings in the forehead and in jaws. He perfectly presented the position of unborn child in the womb of mother. His drawings of heart, the chambers, and the valves presents his doctor’s vision.
When the Duke Ludovico Sforzawas captured by the King of France, Leonardo lost his patron, so he went to Venice and offered his military inventions. He devised a diving suit and a submarine. He was mindful not to note or illustrate the designs of these inventions because he was afraid that evil nature of man would use it to murder men at the bottom of the sea. Oh, how clearly it reminds us of scientist Albert Einstein, who regretted his atomic research which proved fatal to mankind!
|( Albert Einstein ) Image wikipedia|
Leonardo also applied his knowledge to be a cartographer for Cesar Borgia. As Borgia wanted to conquer Italy, Leonardo was engaged in making maps;Leonardo himself didthe survey and measurements. For travelling long distances and measuring the area, he invented an important tool called odometer, the device that notes how long automobile hastravelled, by keeping records of revolution of wheels. This helped him in making maps. Interestingly, even modern automobiles have odometer.
Leonardo is also instrumental in inventing machine gun with many barrels mounted on triangular support. His military tank consisted of a mobile enclosure with breech-loaded cannons. The tank was manually operated, as it was invented before any mechanical power other than wind or water power was invented. A double-hull ship is also an excellent example of his artistic and scientific brain. If the outer hull was gun- fired by enemy, the ship still remained afloat.
|(A design for a flying machine, (c. 1488) Institut de France, Paris)Image wikipedia|
His other notable inventions include anemometer, the device used to measure wind.
Leonardo invented mechanisms which are refined and used even today. For example, machine tool industries have file-cutting and screw-cutting machines equal to those designed by Leonardo da Vinci. All the artists working in metal please note the Father of this invention!
Leonardo had special interest in aspects of water that inspired him to design a pump that used the power of stream to raise water. He studied shape of fish which helped him to design ship. His botanical love is presented in notes and drawing forms which include heliotropism, rings of trees related to age of the tree. Flowers of varied types were drawn and he understood how the male and female plant life exists.
In his teenage, he made observation of birds’ inflight by releasing some swallows from cage. He noted their way through air, now flying, now soaring. The sketches are valuable from artistic angle too. He was confident that the same principles of flight would hold true for men. It was impossible for anyone in that age to think that a man could fly. But Leonardo da Vinci was certain that we could. He experimented with this thought in1940 and designed a flying machine (though it never worked out) with flap of huge wings. Then he tried his hand at making helicopter also linen-covered wooden frame in pyramid form.
Invention is one of the greatest art. Leonardo’s unbounded extent of thinking, feeling and creating gave birth to his excellent creations in paintings, scientific studies and inventions.Leonardo always practiced noting his observations in his own style- the mirror image, to maintain secrecy. Many of his sketches have been made into working models. These devices are occasionally exhibited.
|The Last Supper (1498)—Convent of Sta. Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy(Image wikipedia)|
An artist needn’t only follow philosophical course. True knowledge comes from experience and meticulous observation of things around. It is the skilful understanding of how every element in nature works in unison and in individual space. Nature has all the examples of what human can think and get inspired by.
Just before I stop detailing about Leonardo da Vinci’s contribution in other fields than in art, I would like to mention the clock invented by him. It was he who first developed a clock that had hours and seconds hands.
The time ticks and it can be heard clear in silent zone, making the thoughtful brains to come up with something novel, fruitful and evergreen, just like Leonardo da Vince.
Content taken from reference materials too.
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By Pankaja JK.