The Renaissance period is characterized by a renewed focus on learning and knowledge. This renewed focus on learning and knowledge encouraged the curious Leonardo to explore all his interests in nature and life. Discovering how things work had fascinated him since he was a young boy in the Italian countryside. More than just painting, Leonardo displayed a particular genius in investigating many subjects, constantly learning, observing and making hypotheses that he would test out whenever he could. “His four main areas of study resulted in what is known as his Treatises, on painting, architecture, mechanics and human anatomy” (Mason, 2004: 21). To discover whether Leonardo was the thoroughly ‘modern man’ he has been claimed in the past or merely a product of his times, it is necessary to investigate these four areas of his career.
Da Vinci revolutionized the artistic world with his explorations in color, light, landscapes, and expression. He is considered the master of the sfumato technique as well as chiaroscuro. Sfumato is a word deriving from the Italian word for smoke and refers to a technique in which translucent layers of color are overlaid to create a perception of depth, volume, and form in a painting by blending the colors to such a degree that there is no perceptible transition from one color to the next. Chiaroscuro refers to the subtle shading between light and dark areas that provide a figure with a three-dimensional effect. Both of these techniques are used brilliantly in one of Leonardo’s most well-known portraits, the Mona Lisa. “His use of soft lines and colors created the illusion of movement which became the trademark of High Renaissance art” (Connor, 2006). It is for this reason that Leonardo is marked as the father of the high renaissance.