Leonardo da Vinci
was born near Vinci, Italy in 1452. At the age of 17 his father's
friend Verrochio accepted Leonardo as his apprentice in one of the best
art studios in Italy. He began training immediately in the arts of
painting and sculpturing. Following his apprenticeship, Leonardo
remained with Verrochio as his assistant. Leonardo was
an excellent observer and was considered a universal genius. Verrochio
and Leonardo collaborated on the painting The Baptism of Christ, which
can be viewed in the "World Book Encyclopedia" in the article on "John
The Baptist". Leonardo painted the head of the left angel, the distant
landscape, and probably the skin of Christ. His parts of the painting
have soft shadings, with shadows concealing the edges. The figures
are shown in the act of moving from one position to another. Verrochio's
figures and objects in this work are sharply defined. They reflect
the style called Early Renaissance. Leonardo's more graceful approach
marked the beginning of the High Renaissance style. However, this
style did not become popular in Italy for another 25 years. From about
1478 to 1482, Leonardo had his own studio in Florence. During this time
he got an important commission to paint a church altarpiece, now known
as the 'Adoration of the Three Kings'. It is still not done today!
The work has figures with only the light and dark areas visible as outlines.
The 'Adoration of the Three Kings' shows three kings worshiping the Christ
child. Leonardo changed the usual way this scene is usually viewed in the
When Leonardo moved to Milan he had not finished 'Adoration of the Three Kings'. In Milan he designed artillery and planned how some rivers flow were to be changed. While in Milan he created the famous scene 'The Last Supper' on a wall of the dining hall of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. He completed The Last Supper around 1497. The Last Supper still remains today, but in poor condition. During his years in Milan, Leonardo started drawing very detailed drawings, especially of the human body. In these drawings not only did he draw how the bones, tendons, and other parts looked, he also drew their function. In 1499 Leonardo had to flee from Milan so, he returned to Florence.
Leonardo did few paintings during his later years. What he did do though was produce many drawings of machines and of experimental inventions. These drawings rank among Leonardo's greatest masterpieces, especially in his delicate use of shadowing and creating the sense of motion. In 1517, King Francis I asked Leonardo to move to France because he wanted to surround himself with famous representatives of the Renaissance culture. The King provided Leonardo a house in Tours for his last two years of life.
Vincent van Gogh