Leonardo DaVinci Was a Loser and Why it Should Make You Happy

Leonardo DaVinci is held up as the genius of the renaissance but you might be surprised to learn that for a large chunk of his career he was also considered a renaissance loser. These two short videos on Vimeo from Delve.tv give some brief thoughts on why being a loser isn’t as bad as it sounds, and can even lead to genius.

The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was no genius from Delve on Vimeo.

The Long Game Part 2: the missing chapter from Delve on Vimeo.

Antiques Roadshow Shocks a Man With New Information About His Painting

On the BBC show Antiques Roadshow a man shows up with a copy of a painting by official war artist William Orpen painted during WWI. The painting turns out to be far more interesting and valuable than even the appraiser realized.

I love this story about the artist William Orpen and how his painting The Spy caused court marshal proceedings against him, and how he got out of them. Please read the full story on Mathew Innis’s blog Underpaintings.

Frederic Lord Leighton House

Born to a Doctor and a mother who believed that the British air was not healthy, Frederic Lord Leighton gained his artistic training in mainland Europe learning to speak German, French, Spanish and Italian. Once he returned to Britain he purchased a plot of land and hired his friend architect George Aitchison to build his home. The arts and culture he discovered on a trip to north Africa when he was 27 inspired him to include Arabic decoration and construction in his home which took 30 years to complete.

FREDERIC LEIGHTON Perseus and Andrómeda
Perseus and Andromeda by Frederic Lord Leighton

At the bottom is a link to a virtual tour of his home which is now the Leighton House Museum, will take you into the mindset of one of the most famous British artists of the 19th century. In particular, the contrast of his bedroom with the rest of his house speaks volumes. Frederic, Lord Leighton was a member of the Aesthetic movement who believed that art should be beautiful and didn’t need any other reason to exist.

It makes me wonder if his house was an extension of that philosophy and his room was a personal sanctuary.

Leighton House Virtual Tour
Leighton House Museum

Where Are All the Drawings?

etching by Pierfrancesco Alberti
etching by Pierfrancesco Alberti

Have you ever wondered where all the drawings from the old masters were? Not the ones in museums but the thousands of drawings they made while perfecting their craft?

It’s a secret that not too many people want to acknowledge, but artists are not born knowing how to draw and paint. It takes years and sometimes decades of practice to achieve high levels in either medium. So, where are all the practice drawings?

In the book Rembrandt: The Painter at Work by Ernst Van De Wetering, the author was wondering the same thing. Paper was hard to produce, making it rare and costly in Europe for many centuries. Art apprentices, mostly young boys, would not be allowed to ruin such an expensive material while they were learning.

Instead apprentices would draw with a metal stylus on a wooden board prepared with a coating of bone meal and saliva. Later they coated sheets of paper the same way, but used gum arabic as the binder so the bone meal wouldn’t fall off. The metal stylus was a dry medium, meaning it could not be smudged or changed once a mark was made. To fix a mistake the bone meal coating had to be moistened and the line, or complete drawing, rubbed away.

Even master artists would use this method, writing in small notebooks with coated erasable paper.

I can imagine groups of small boys trying their hardest to copy a master’s drawing of an eye or hand and showing it the master to correct or praise. After the master made a few marks, I think the boys would study the drawing, only to wipe the board clean and start again.

Portrait of a Boy with a Drawing by Giamfrancesco Caroto
Portrait of a Boy with a Drawing by Giamfrancesco Caroto

The joy on this boy’s face when the master must have praised his drawing for the day makes me smile. I wonder if the master artist was an old man who let the inspiration of a boy’s achievement fill his soul and put paint to panel.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad he made the painting. And I’m glad to know that we artists aren’t that different than our artistic ancestors.