Revisiting Leonardo

One of the first posts on this blog pointed to Leonardo Da Vinci as an early pioneer of animation.  I still stand by that assessment.

In that post I pointed to the sequence of poses from Leonardo’s notebooks that sketch the motion of a man chopping wood:

Man chopping wood - Leonardo DaVinci

Man chopping wood – Leonardo DaVinci

I recently came across a book that had these images in a bit clearer format and in clearer context and was tempted to purchase the book.  However, I realized those tiny images would very likely be the whole reason for buying the book.  As with most notebooks Leonardo added notes to these images so there is much more to be gleaned from studying the originals.  Maybe some other day…

The thing that set Leonardo apart from other artists (as an ‘animator’) is his intense and never ending study of movement.

Yes, my friends… animation may be ‘the illusion of life’ but movement… basic movement of all types is present in animation too.   In fact that ‘movement’ is what creates a compelling illusion.

Leonardo understood movement and how it relates to us in ways that even in our day and age we often do not.

Another recent book on Leonardo that I have not purchased covers theories of how he created the illusion of movement in still paintings.  I should buy that book too.  Some day…

Keep on animating!


And here for the curious are some additional ‘pose studies’ by Leonardo.


If anyone can share links to larger images of Leonardo’s motion studies on the internet or provide additional context concerning his affinity with motion/animation I will be most grateful to you.



About Rodney

Cartoonist and Animator! I'd tell you more but then I'll have to debrief you.
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4 Responses to Revisiting Leonardo

  1. Hi Rodney,
    Great blog post! If you could share the name of those two books you mentioned, it would be really appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Rodney says:

    Thanks J.P.
    I’m pretty sure the first one was a random Leonardo book that haphazardly displayed his images. I recall that because I had to copy/paste to get the images into the orderly framing you see them in here. They didn’t even particularly seem to be related and… if I recall correctly the bottom two frames were not even in that book although they are very obviously related and in Davinci’s notebook in a noticeably related way.

    I hope that I don’t give the impression that Leonardo was a closet Cartoonist is laying out the frames as I have above. Davinci’s sketches (to my eye) where not at all organized but were quick sketches and roughed out ideas. In searching for (and through) poses he was often looking for that perfect moment to capture in a painting and so he studied the whole movement in order to capture that essential frame that would be in view.

    The second book was very well organized and I should be able to find it. I know it was pricey. I would have like to have purchased it but when it was mostly those tiny thumbnails that I was interested in I couldn’t justify the cost. I do recall that when I got home I searched to see if there was an online preview and (again… as I recall) I did find it online. It was a relatively new publication with an interesting title that I’m sure I will remember when I run across it again.

    Stay tuned…. I’m off to find it!

  3. Rodney says:

    This is likely not either of those books but is a very interesting reference:

    • Rodney says:

      The end of that link got cut off but if you copy it the link worked for me. Also, I should have stated that collection is ‘Leonardo Da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man’. While it is a very useful anatomy book it lacks the ‘animation’ and movement captured in so many of Da Vinci’s drawings that would also expertly convey the mechanics of man.

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