Leonardo's Light

Eli Whitney Museum

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The 28th Annual Leonardo Challenge

Leonardo's Light

Thumbnail of Leonardo's Light project

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Thursday, May 16, 2024, 5:30-9 pm
915 Whitney Avenue
Food & Drink | Art Auction | Live Music

Tickets are available online and at the door.

Light guides civilizations, fuels scientific breakthroughs, and inspires cultural evolution. Its impact—both visible and unseen—remains woven into the fabric of life.

Join us on May 16 for a vibrant art auction, live music, and a delicious spread of treats from local vendors. Funds raised by donors and artists will support the museum's efforts to teach Leonardo's idea of improvisational creativity to K–12 learners, dedicated apprentices, and the Greater New Haven community.

If you are interested in supporting this event through a sponsorship, contact 203.777.1833 or email manager@eliwhitney.org.

View the Art

The Artist's Challenge is to create a piece that embodies the idea of light. Leonardo da Vinci closely studied optics and light. His observations are prevalent in the paintings familiar to many. Look closely at Leonardo's depiction of The Last Supper. Shadows are carefully calculated. Notice the refraction of light through the glasses. In the background, Leonardo delicately depicts the twilight glow. Light is everywhere!

It is your challenge to depict, ponder, or produce light for the art auction.

Interested in participating as an artist? Click the button below:
Call for Entries

Light, in its various forms, has confounded inquisitive minds for millennia. Is it a particle, a wave, or both? Leonardo da Vinci worked tirelessly to understand the complexities of light to better know the world. Throughout his life, his exploration of understanding light and optics is displayed in his various notebooks.

“How to make a beautiful and large light.”

Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus, 0034 r

Leonardo da Vinci viewed the study of light and optics as the science of painting. A meticulous observer and inventive thinker, he thoroughly studied human sight and perception. By dissecting the eye, he better understood the mechanism of human sight. Leonardo concluded from the flipped images seen in camera obscuras that the human eye functioned similarly. His in-depth examinations of how water, air, and distance can bend light and transform its subject captivated his interest in the nuances of sight. These observations not only shaped his art but also left an enduring impact on our understanding of light and optics today.

Light entering the eye flips at the lens and projects to the optic nerve upside down.

Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus, 0921 r

Light pervades from the minuscule to the grand. From buzzing photons facilitating photosynthesis to the faint glow of distant planets, light is an omnipresent medium.

Venturing into the darkest places on Earth, light persists. Bioluminescent creatures glow in the depths of the oceans. On land, light falls as rays through windows and trees, casting shadows behind it. Above, Earth’s skies host a myriad of optical phenomena—from rainbows formed by sunlight refracting through rain to magnetic fields creating auroras at the poles. Mysteries of light exist beyond our atmosphere.

"It often happens that the shadows in the shadowy bodies are not companions in the colors of the lights, or the shadows will be green and the lights red, even if the body is of the same colour. This happens that the light will come from the east onto the object, and will illuminate the object with the color of its splendor, and from the west another object will be illuminated with the same light, which will be of a different color than the first object, so that with its reflected flares it stands out towards the east and strikes with its flares the part of the first object facing it and there its flares are cut off and remain still together with their colors and splendor.

I have often seen red lights and bluish shadows on a white object; and this happens in the snow mountains, when the sun sets and the horizon appears fiery.”

Leonardo da Vinci, Book of Paintings, 0075 r

Traveling at 299,792,458 meters per second, light reveals details about our neighboring planets in the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Leonardo was one of the first to conceive that the light from planetary bodies was a reflection of the Sun. He used light to consider the way planets move, observed the moon’s ashen glow, and was fascinated with the map of stars in the night sky.

Music By: Cliff Schloss

Cliff Schloss is a New Haven born teaching artist, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, vocals, drums, tuba, steel pans) and arts administrator. An attendee of Hofstra University, Schloss has taught and performed regionally with various projects and currently holds the position of executive assistant at the International Festival of Art & Ideas. Schloss can be found playing/attending shows in and around the state working to push his art further along.

This event is made possible by sponsors from our local community. Sponsor and underwriter support is invaluable to helping the Eli Whitney Museum & Workshop offer scholarships to students in our programs year-round.

Alexandra Shor and John Bianchi
The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven
Wiggin & Dana
L.H. Brenner/Thompson & Peck Ins.
Rachel and Tom Ardito
Darrel Wilson
Nick and Marie Afragola
Jennifer Levin Tavares
Shari and David Axman
Linda Estacion
Sharon Capetta
Walter and Kathleen Zawalich
Brian DiVito
Allison Kucinskas
Kiran Zaman
Sidartha Nathan
Ray Fair
Janie Merkel
Mert Ozan Bahtiyar and Elif Kongar-Bahtiyar
James E. Stacy
Lawrence Fee
Stephen Latham and Fiona Scott Morton
Lisa and David Totman
Baybrook Remodelers
Mary Losee and Anthony Pasqualoni
Cintas Corp.
Odyseey Associates LLC
The Opin Law Farm
Chris and Lisa Heyl

If you are interested in supporting this event through a sponsorship, contact 203.777.1833 or email manager@eliwhitney.org.

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