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Leonardo da Vinci

Walter Isaacson, president and chief executive officer, The Aspen Institute, and author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014), Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992). In this lecture held on November 6, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Walter Isaacson discusses his newly published biography, Leonardo da Vinci, on history’s most creative genius. Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, the book weaves a narrative that connects Leonardo’s art to his science. Leonardo produced the two most famous paintings in history: The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. Isaacson demonstrates how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. The Gallery has in its collection the only painting by Leonardo in the Americas—Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474/1478) is one of his three extant female portraits and is among his earliest experiments with the new medium of oil paint.