De Pictura

On Art and Aesthetics

On Painting (1435) by Leon Battista Alberti translated by Cecil Grayson (1991, Penguin Classics)

A true Renaissance Man – humanist, priest, author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher and cryptographer – Leon Battista Alberti (born: 1404, Genoa; died: 1472, Rome) was the first art theorist to write an exposition on the principles of perspective. Departing radically from the conventions of the Middle Ages, he emphasised, as Ian Chilvers, author of the The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists notes, “the rational basis of the arts, and the necessity for the artist to have a thorough grounding in such ‘sciences’ as history, poetry, and mathematics.”

Inspired by the mathematical order and beauty found in nature, Alberti set out rules of distance, dimension and proportion in his De Pictura or Della pittura (“On Painting”) of 1435, instructing painters on representation, composition, light and colour and encouraging them create elegant and visually pleasing works…

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