Leonardo in Bloom

Eli Whitney Museum

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The 23rd Leonardo Challenge

Leonardo in Bloom

Thumbnail of Leonardo in Bloom project

Leonardo's Garden

In his notebooks and paintings, Leonardo collects flowers. They are rarely simple decorations. The scientist Leonardo draws flowers, often as subjects unto themselves, with precise anatomy that will set the standard for Renaissance botanical illustration. The artist Leonardo gives flowers meanings and mystery. Madonna with Flower, the earliest painting attributed to him, depicts Mary and a pensive child studying a cruciform flower. Leonardo illustrates myths and allegories with flowers that represent pleasure and pain, truth and deception, innocence and desire.

The Challenge

The bloom is the fullest expression of a flower's creativity.
Let a flower seed your creativity.

As if to forestall the brutal mechanics of Darwin's science, the early Victorians codified the language of flowers in elaborate dictionaries: a fixed meaning and code for each bloom. We've all but forgotten those.

We still need to stop and surrender to the beauty and mystery of flowers. Pick a flower from your memory, your imagination, or from a random walk. Evolve a flower in paper, steel, glass, or any improbable medium. Arrange a flower in an unexpected bouquet or myth. Plant a flower in a fresh and unfamiliar garden. Let your flower beckon – Notice Me!

The Benefit

Leonardo da Vinci painted with unrivaled vision, explored science and modern logic and invented with pure imagination. The Leonardo Challenge celebrates one of his inventions – improvisational creativity. One hundred artists, designers and playful spirits will transform a common object – this year, the flower – with wit, whimsy and artistry.

The April 27th benefit will revel in those artists' visions. Through their generosity, and yours, the evening will support workshops and outreach to train a next generation to explore and embrace the world with all their senses.

Gladiolus by Alexis Brown

Gladiolus by Alexis Brown

<em>The Garden</em>, fresco from Nebamun tomb, originally in Thebes, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, U.K.

The Garden, fresco from Nebamun tomb, originally in Thebes, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, U.K.


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