Updated: Aug 7, 2022
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
The majority of art that we looked at this term had one major theme in common, and that was a love and reverence for nature. Leonardo is no exception. Born out of wedlock to a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, in Vinci in the region of Florence, he could not inherit or follow the family tradition of being a notary. He was not eligible to attend one of the Latin schools that taught the classics and humanities, so he had no formal education. He was dyslexic, ambidextrous, vegetarian, anti-authority, primarily left-handed and was able to write upside down and backward. Qualities that are often thought of as disadvantages, were turned to his advantage. He was largely self-taught, which freed him to follow his insatiable curiosity outside of the political and religious dogma of the time. He did not speak or read Latin and could not communicate with other academics but became an Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been called the father of paleontology and architecture. Regarded as the prime example of the "Universal Genius" or "Renaissance Man", he was one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. His view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, and the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time. Renaissance humanism recognized no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo's studies in science and engineering are equal to his artistic work. His notebooks with over 13,000 pages of notes and drawings fuse art and natural philosophy which was the forerunner of modern science. He could think like an artist and a scientist, which gave him something more valuable: the ability to visualize theoretical concepts. He had a vast amount of spatial intelligence, one of nine forms of intelligence and is a foundational intelligence upon which many of the other eight rely and interact. Engineers, scientists, architects, and artists are among those that have high spatial intelligence. This intelligence involves how well a person may process information that is presented visually in one or more dimensions. Those with spatial intelligence have the ability to think in three-dimensions and excel at mentally manipulating objects, enjoy drawing or art, like to design and build things, enjoy puzzles and excel at mazes. The world we live in demands creative thinkers and great problem solvers, more than any other time in history. We are on the threshold of quantum physics, as well as progressive innovations in energy, design, architecture, and science. This really underlines the importance of art programs in education. Standard IQ tests, such as the SAT, tend not to measure for these abilities so many students may never be recognized for possessing this intelligence.
* We studied Leonardo last year and the students chose him as one artist to revisit. He is new to half of the class, and such an important figure in the history of art and science that I hope it piqued their curiosity to look at his work again and again. We did studies and chalk drawings of the Mona Lisa and created journals for their personal designs and ideas.