Imagination and reality

How do we detect reality? Do we see it ”as it is”, or do we create it with the help of imagination? Lionardo da Vinci, a practical man, and visionary and inventor, attached great importance to the imagination. He designed bridges. He designed duct systems and locks. War machines and aircraft. Reason, logic and investigative research were his tools. At the same time he saw imagination as a means of discovering unexpected aspects of reality.

In the book Konsten och dess föremål (Art and its Object) I read Richard Wollheim’s discussion about Lionardo da Vinci and his view of the imagination:

Petter Olsson’s hat

”In a famous passage in his Trattato, Leonardo gives the prospective artist the advise to ”practice his ability to discover” by observing walls with damp spots, or irregularly colored stones, to find, in them, heavenly landscapes, battle scenes and strange figures in vigorous motion”

Nude by running water

Was that how Lionardo created his worldview? Like we do when we look at the clouds in the sky and like to see lions, wrestlers and dragons. Perhaps it was necessary to look outside the box. Outside of the narrow-minded church worldview of his time. And for us if we want to see beyond our standards of what the world ought be like.

”See outside the box!”

For Lionardo, it was probably the combination of logic, reason and imagination that opened his senses to the world.



*) Wollheim, Richard. Konsten och dess föremål. Stockholm: Thales 2006, 31.

Here you will find the online version of Leonardo’s Trattata della Pittura

(Italian edition 1786, first published in 1651)


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