Leonardo Vs Raphael: The Science Behind The Art

In this dialogue, two great artists discuss the benefits of practice and method, theory and discovery, in the learning of mastery of painting as an art form.

Leonardo: My dear Raphael, I realize you are enamored with Benois Madonna. Can you tell me that your mastery of light and shadow have no bearing on this art form?

Raphael: You are the one who uses science to discover ways to improve your painting method. Who is your ‘captain’?

L: Yes, it is true, I have become engrossed with sciences to show me ways to practice my work. My ‘Adoration’ will forever remain a work in progress. Do you know why?

R: I stand in front of it like a awestruck child. I will copy some of the elements of it’s style. But I can not tell you why?

L: I believe in using science to discover new method, like the use of oils for painting. And as much theory as I can to build practice.

R: I have incorporated the lute in some of my work. Why do you love to play it? You were heavy into competition in Florence.

L: Music is helpful in learning to learn. And I need to learn how to master myself. Is not music just another of the faculties?

R: Of course, you master music, mathematics and as much science as you can learn. This will help you know different parts of yourself. Perhaps now, you can try the engineering of the Art Form?

L: My teacher has taught me to respect science as my ‘captain’. And practice as my ‘soldier’. And I believe not to copy great works of art but to discover new ways to practice it. I have a motto: I am especially stuck by this one: “ostinato rigore”-obstinate rigor. I feel this is true. Now, I need to think and research moral patterns.

R: Why don’t you become a messenger for your captain (science) and a soldier’s soldier to make more practice and a better engineer of art.

L: All the boys at the shop, including myself, have learnt from our good teacher Verrochio. I now teach my own pupils to strive to be universal in all we paint, to learn to paint every image.

R: Perhaps this is your moral pattern, The Proper Use Of Impressions, or learning to Know Thyself.

L: I gave up science to pursue art and science is catching me up. I shall practice using these forms in all my work.

R: I follow where you led.

Leave a Reply