Sunday, November 26, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci on originality

From an essay by Joseph Bronowski on Leonardo in The Penguin Book Of The Renaissance, quoting a passage in one of his notebooks.

'The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the work of others as his standard; but if he will apply himself to learn from the objects of nature he will produce good results. This we see was the case with the painters who came after the time of the Romans, for they continually imitated each other, and from age to age their art steadily declined... it is safer to go direct to the works of nature than to those who have imitated from her originals with great determination and thereby to accquire a bad method, for he who has access to the fountain does not go to the water-pot.'

I'm not sure I'd subscribe to as thorough-going a naturalism, but I agree with him on the limits of mere imitation of other artists.

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