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Personality of Leonardo da Vinci


“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”  


What made this personality a real legend?

As in the life of this inventor prevail some facts and events that schematize this personality, we realize that here we are with the character of a real genius.  Early on his life, he had revealed and portrayed his diversity and eagerness in sketching and designing, striving for observation and experimentation that accompanied him throughout his entire life.  He never stopped questioning and posing questions of matters we take for granted.  “Why is the sky blue?”, for instance…  His diving into the world of knowledge was a quest that was his way of living and being.  Even though he did not get a classical education, he would always retrieve the answer to his queries through experimentation.  What could have once been a point of discomfort now became his way of seeing things that through action and experiments and observation do we derive the desired results.  He often showed off his knowledge gained from experience that was superior to the knowledge gained from reading.

In general, he was a very lively person with many talents, very pleasant and appealing.  Besides his handsome looks, his outgoing and generous personality brought him many friends and followers.  He was a cheerful performer with his lyre and musical instruments but also with his singing and spontaneous verse constructing talent, which made him a pleasant company.  He engaged in discussions and raised peculiar issues and topics in order to find answers to his queries and absorb new information from his encounters. He managed to concentrate and keep all his power in line with his knowledge quest and in every form of being, either drawing or having a conversation.  He was a source of information, especially while he was growing older with experience on his background.  He was a good companion and teacher to his last patron, the king of France.  What would result in peaceful elderly years…

Leonardo da Vinci photo.He was homosexual and diverse, and did not attempt to hide it.  Although he was accused of sodomy and the political and social situation did not put up with homosexuality, he still preserved the freedom of being himself. He wore pink outfits shorter than what it was accustomed and he cared for his appearance.  He spent money on clothes for both himself and Salai, his companion.

As he was clever, he cared for animals, he was vegetarian and he wore clothes that were not made out of animal skin. This was a personal sensitivity that embarked in his being exclusively, since it was not a trend of the time like it is nowadays.

He evolved in an era where the arts were not a claustrophobic process of an isolated creator, but rather a get-together of many researchers of many fields working side by side and collaborating into creating projects, and even living together.  From the time he was a student till the times he moved from city to city and from royal court to royal court, till when he was accompanied by his crew, he was always surrounded by creative people.  This encouraged the exchange of ideas and the brainstorming on issues to further emphasize the yearning for perfection.

Perfectionist! He was a real perfectionist, indeed… He was skilled in so many disciplines; however, his output has been surprisingly small as he failed to complete his paintings and he was easily bored.  He was the archetypal Renaissance polymath, a creative genius whose inventiveness flourished across a bewildering range of disciplines… His work offered brilliant insights into many fields such as human and animal anatomy, natural history or engineering… Many analysts have striven to give an insight to this great mind, even Freud, and have all spoiled us with intriguing theories.  He was restless, before completing one thought he would forcefully enter the next one and his sketches are crafted about different and diverse issues one next to the other.  He enjoyed composing rather than executing his ideas, preferred the conception phase.  This is probably why he never published any of his investigations which where all in depth and a valuable donation to humanity.

Anyway, for whatever reason, Leonardo was notoriously tardy about finishing things. Once a work was almost ready or finished, he lost interest in it… Thus, although he left a voluminous fragmentary archive of sketches, drawings and writings, his artistic reputation rests on a very small number of paintings and artwork.

Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.


Leonardo da Vinci’s genealogy

Leonardo was fortunate enough to be born out of wedlock. This occurrence enabled him to deal with his diverse interests and not with his family’s notarial tradition, which reaches five generations back. It all finds its roots from Sir Michele da Vinci, a prominent title due to the importance and honesty of his profession.The same course was followed by his son and grandson, with the exception of the next generation in Antonio, Leonardo’s grandfather, who simply pleased to enjoy his title and the profits earned by his family, without putting much effort in developing his career. Research into Leonardo’s genealogy traces his family’s roots to Spain and Morocco as Antonio da Vinci, Leonardo’s grandfather, regularly did business in Spain and Morocco and his contacts with the Arab culture and Islam, his tales about documents written in exotic-looking writing, pigments, spices and fantastic landscapes, all likely influenced Leonardo.  Piero, his son and father of Leonardo, an authentic Da Vinci, restored the family’s reputation and excelled in the courtyards of the Medici as a notary.

On a trip to Vinci, Piero met with Caterina di Meo Lippi, an orphan girl from the region, who, nine months later, gave birth to a boy, Leonardo. At the time of his birth, Antonio, who was playing backgammon at the time, was summoned to draw up the notarial act of the birth of Leonardo on April 15th, a Saturday of 1452. His baptism was attended by honorary members of society, he was baptized by ten godfathers and his father attended.  The baptistry still exists in that same church nowadays. It is worth mentioning that Piero did not play an active role in raising Leonardo. However, although Leonardo was illegitimate, he was accepted into his father’s household and reared there.

It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.


Leonardo da Vinci’s Childhood

Leonardo was raised happily in two houses. He lived with his mother, Caterina di Meo Lippi, along with her husband, whom Piero himself made arrangements for the marriage. He lived also in the Da Vinci yard, with his father where the two families maintained relationships, and shared the growing up of the young Leonardo.He had a very good relationship with his grandfather Antonio and his grandmother. Likewise, Francesco, his uncle, fifteen years older than Leonardo, cared for him as if he was a child of his own. 


Leonardo da Vinci’s early years in life

Leonardo da Vinci birth placeLeonardo was born at a time when children out of wedlock were not a dishonor. Many great artists of the time were born out of marriage, such as Philipo Lippi, Vocakio, Leon Batista Alberti and others. This made Leonardo feel like being part of his family but also at the same time alienated like a stranger to the society as a whole. This creates isolation as well as a freedom; this fact, in the case of Leonardo, was a trigger for his curiosity that leads to his journey of research and success. 


Childhood memories

“It is probably my fate to write about the hawk, since among the first memories of my early years is the impression that while I sat in my crib, a hawk approached, opened my mouth with its tail and struck me with it several times at the inside of my lips. “

This testimony of Leonardo has been approached by many scholars, and amongst them Freud, where he identifies this experience as the precursor of his homosexuality. Also the famous psychoanalyst notes that for the artist, his asphyxiated desires found expression in the intense creativity but he ended up leaving many projects incomplete. Leonardo himself had pointed out that “mental passion evades sensuality.”  Others simply argue that this remembrance reflects his life-long interest in flying and birds.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.


Leonardo da Vinci’s life in Florence

Leonardo da Vinci left a legacy bigger than life and Florence was the place where it all started, in within its very walls!

After the death of his step mother Albeira, the first partner of Piero, to be followed by another three marriages, his father brought him to Florence.  Since the expected child died at birth along with his wife, Piero felt alone and brought him to Florence, to live with him in his big house.Thus, in his early years, the great creator lived with his father, who attentively cared for his son and his education, however, never arriving at legally recognizing him as his son.

Thus, the artistically busy Florence had been Leonardo’s place of inspiration for all the years of his teenage and young age.A scenic city that lived a cultural and economic development in a vibrant environment for artistic apprenticeship and exploration.It was the time of Brunelleschi, the inventor of perspective, and Alberti, who in his writings “On Painting” recognizes painters as creators equal to any other humanist quests.

Learning never exhausts the mind.


Education of Leonardo da Vinci

Da Vinci received no formal education beyond basic reading, writing and math, but his father appreciated his artistic talent and apprenticed him, at around age 14, to the noted sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence.  The Portrait of Andrea del Verrocchio

Piero noticed that his son would not stop painting, experimenting in sculpture and revealing his vivid imagination at every step of the way. The notary was clearly not one of his interests. So he took care of his education accordingly, first by finding him a teacher, then, by enrolling him in a technical high school, and, later on, by apprenticing him in the studio of the then-known Verrocchio.

He did not get a classical education, nor did he learn any Latin that undermined the status of his education as a researcher throughout his life. Nevertheless, he was given enough skill to cope with his own curiosity and observation to offer the world his multifaceted discoveries. He always felt that experience and revelation is the true way towards the conquest of knowledge.

From his technical high school years, he learned some basic mathematics and geometry, which later helped him in his explorations in mechanics, and his series of inventions.

As left-handed Leonardo, he wrote from right to left and formed the letters horizontally mirrored. His writings are read through a mirror. This is why his notes are coded-like and rumors do apply that he wrote them this way to keep his pioneering creations as a secret. However, it is only rumors… 

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.” 



The School of Verrocchio

Verrocchio’s studio was at the center of the intellectual currents of Florence, assuring the young Leonardo of an education in the humanities. Verrocchio was a famous and multi-talented artist and engineer and his studio was one of the most audacious in Florence.His teacher was left speechless with Leonardo’s talent in painting and drawing and he immediately welcomed him at his studio. There, besides assimilating many tools for his art, Leonardo felt welcomed by his classmates.

He had a demanding teaching program that included a study of various painting surfaces, principles of engineering, design techniques and three-dimensional fabric imaging.He showed great ability to manage three-dimensional patterns on a two-dimensional surface, and he managed to develop his knowledge of engineering by witnessing the production of great sculptures that the studio undertook over that time.

His ability and inventiveness have also devised his own techniques, the well-known “sfumato” technique, which as a style will enchant the whole world with the most mysterious smile of the art history. The roots of the word come from the Italian ‘fumo’ which means smoke, and signifies the concept of color diffusion and the vagueness of the outline. Da Vinci himself described the “sfumato” technique as “without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the picture plane.” 

Knowledge of the past and of the places of the earth is the ornament and food of the mind of man. 


Working with Verrocchio

At the age of 20, Leonardo qualified as a master in the Guild of Saint Luke, the guild of artists and doctors of medicine, but even after his father set him up in his own studio, his attachment to Verrocchio was such that he continued to collaborate with him. He participated in the completion of paintings as well as in other works. One of them, the Baptism of Christ, marked the story of both of them, student and teacher. The Baptism of Christ was mainly done by Verrochio using tempera on wood. The painting depicts St. John the Baptist during the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ as according to the Gospels of Luke, Mark and Matthew. Two angels on the left side of the painting complete the four figures in the artwork. The scene illustrated by the painting includes God’s extended arms painted with golden rays and dove with its wings widely spread, a halo with cruciform is painted on top of Jesus’ head and another halo on top of St. John the Baptist. The two angels are holding Jesus’ clothes. The angel on the left side is the part done by Leonardo da Vinci. He used oil, which was at that time a new medium in painting. Leonardo painted the left angel on the painting and he executed it in such a manner that his angel was far better that the figures painted by Verrocchio. This was the reason why Verrocchio would never touch colours again, being so ashamed that a boy understood their use better than he did.

“If the poet says that he can inflame men with love.. the painter has the power to do the same…in that he can place in front of the lover the true likeness of one who is beloved, often making him kiss and speak to it”


Leonardo da Vinci’s work

We are witnesses of some works made by the student Leonardo and some of his first drawings, such as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and his two Madonnas, the Virgin Mary with the carnation and the Virgin Mary with the divine infant with flowers.

Also, the portrait of Jenevra de Benci, that serves as a prologue to the Mona Lisa, a painting where he introduces the three-quarter posture, an innovation in the Italian painting to that day. The painting shows an incipient genius and was revolutionary in the history of painting.

“If the painter wishes to see beauties that charm him it lies in his power to create them, and if he wishes to see monstrosities that are frightful, buffoonish, or ridiculous, or pitiable he can be lord and god thereof; if he wants to produce inhabited regions or deserts or dark and shady retreats from the heat, or warm places in cold weather, he can do so.”


Leonardo da Vinci inventing art techniques

As already mentioned above, Leonardo da Vinci invented a technique that helped softened the colors by using a dark glaze around the edge of objects. This technique is known as sfumato, this is taken from the Italian word for smoke, ‘fumo’. This produces an effect that makes the outer edges of the objects of people in the painting appear to be slightly obscured by a haze or smoke.

Moreover, Leonardo invented Chiarusco Technique; he shaped his objects in two dimensions by capturing the light and shadow of three dimensions. This use of light and shadow was called chiaroscuro. That was an innovation in a day when most paintings were flattened views of the subject. 

“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.”


Leonardo da Vinci’s Sexuality

It’s generally believed amongst majority of academics that Leonardo was probably gay or at least bi-sexual.

Anyway, when he was twenty-four years old, Leonardo was arrested, along with several young companions, on the charge of sodomy.  No witnesses appeared against them and eventually the charges were dropped. It must be said that often anonymous charges like this were brought against people just for a nuisance. Even though the complaints did not pass through, they were enough to discriminate him socially and isolate him, as he wrote in his notebooks.

Leonardo, in general, was dressed in colorful tunics and vests, and did not hide his homosexuality. However, the era was not favorable, as far as diversity was concerned, neither by the church nor by political leadership and laws.The poetry announcing homosexuality in the era of Leonardo has led the accused even to death. Even the Divine Comedy, known since then, sent the Sodomites to the seventh circle of Hell.

However, in Florence, homosexual relations were very well-received. Verrocchio never married, neither did Botticelli, who was also accused for sodomy, Donatello and Michael Angelo were also homosexuals.The poems of the time and the folklore songs praised homosexual love, and in the German slang Florentine meant homosexual.

Several things indicate that Leonardo was also probably gay. He never married or showed any interest in women; indeed, he wrote in his notebooks that male-female intercourse disgusted him. His anatomical drawings naturally include the sexual organs of both genders, but those of the male exhibit much more extensive attention.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 


His own studio

In 1477, at the age of 24, Leonardo opened his own studio leaving the nest of the studio of Verrocchio. This decision was a clear commercial failure, since, in his studio’s five years of operation, he took three orders that left all incomplete. One of them, The Adoration of the Magi, was an early painting made by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was given the commission by the Augustinian monks of San Donato a Scopeto, in Florence, but he departed for Milan the following year, leaving the painting unfinished and he was in debt to the monastery.

However, these were the times where these works were created leaving their mark in art and in history. Moreover, it was a time when he initiated the elaborate and realistic depiction of bodies in difficult poses which he was constantly studying in his notebooks. At this point, we should also point out that da Vinci experimented with perspective to create unforgettable impressions of people and places. 

“The most praiseworthy form of painting is the one that most resembles what it imitates”


An untamed genius 

Leonardo abandoned his painting works and left them incomplete for several reasons. First of all, his perfectionism found deficiencies and, sometimes, he was too bored to try to improve his designs. By studying his work and his thoughts, we also realize that he enters many difficult painterly puzzles, the shadow and the light source, bearing in mind his reflections as well as the theory that the figures had an influence on each other in their lights and colors. Imagine a composition that contained thirty figures such as the Adoration of the Magi. The execution of the project evoked a dull repetition and monotony which made the overpowering Leonardo get bored. Finally, this tireless genius preferred conceiving his works rather than executing them.

Even if he completed his orders, he never delivered them. This was the case in ‘Mona Lisa’ art project. He drove his work in all his subsequent moves and, then, it was difficult to feel separated from his art piece or art pieces. He believed that there were always new things to discover on a painting, and he did not hesitate to intervene on them even after years since the last stroke.

A need for Change

Until his thirties, Leonardo had managed to build his reputation as a genius, no matter if he had no works to display to prove it. Facing a financial failure as regards his studio and having a permanent inner mood that he was alone and detached from friends and family, he felt it was time to make a move. So, he set off for Milan, a city that was the perfect environment for Leonardo, as Duke Ludovico invited men of letters and artists in his yard and wasted a lot of money for cultural events and fiestas. With lavish but enlightened patronage of artists and scholars, Ludovico made the court of Milan the most splendid not only in Italy but in Europe. Let us not forget that, unlike Florence, this new place was not so populated by artists, thus extinguishing the competition.So his choice was a fruitful opportunity, as it turned out in practice.

Job application to Ludovico

In a long and brilliant letter to the Duke, Leonardo invited him to accept him in his court for work. Being fully aware that Duke Ludovico was looking to employ artists and military engineers, Leonardo drafted an application letter that put his seemingly endless engineering talents front and centre, by way of a 10-point list of his abilities; interestingly, his artistic genius is merely hinted at towards the very end. So, in this letter, Leonardo set out his knowledge of engineering and his ability of military designing, although all he had designed up to that day in his drawings touched the boundaries of imagination and were not applicable. He hoped to spur the Duke’s attention as he had gained his power over Milan by force and political instability would best describe the situation.

“Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things..”

Indeed, in the many notebooks of Leonardo, we find many-armed constructions of war and non-war machines, even machines that the enemy may not detect ships. He was really a decent candidate for an artistic and research opportunity.

The effort paid off, and he was eventually employed. A decade later, it was Sforza who commissioned him to paint The Last Supper

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.” 


Leonardo at the court of Ludovico

He finally managed to be admitted at the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan, but not as a mechanic or an architect, but as a creator of massive theatrical scenes for various artistic festivities.

He had shown a keen interest in this activity when still a young student at the studio in Verrocchio. Indeed, it was an occupation that explored many of Leonardo’s skills, his construction genius, his prodigious mind to bring forth clever scenes and strange sets, and of course keep his keen interest alive in the joyful multi skilled alternations that the occupation required.

He managed to channel his imagination and his inventiveness in many ways. First of all, he created sets and scenery as well as designs and mechanisms for flying machines made in many variations. He preferred to invent prominent constructions that would fly over the scene in front of the eyes of the audience. These studies were to become the forerunner for deeper scientific searches later on.

Da Vinci seemed truly excited by the possibility of people soaring through the skies like birds. One of da Vinci’s most famous inventions, the flying machine (also known as the “ornithopter”) ideally displays his powers of observation and imagination, as well as his enthusiasm for the potential of flight and the design for this invention is clearly inspired by the flight of winged animals, which da Vinci hoped to replicate. Academics believe that he had set the bases for the development of aviation as the notion of a human-powered mechanical flight device, an idea that he was the first to conceive, a device patterned after birds or bats, recurred again and again over the next four centuries.

His work has also highlighted his skill in music which we also encounter in his research notebooks. There is quite a bit of truth in the stories that Leonardo was a skilled poet, singer and practiced musician. He introduced his own musical instruments, by which he flattered the court of Milan and, in combination with his talent in speech and singing, he managed to captivate the people’s attention with his improvisations that he was often invited to share with the people at the court. There is no sound basis for the belief that Leonardo invented the violin though he certainly drew up plans for many new musical instruments including various flutes and the viola organist, a complicated keyboard instrument with strings which were sounded by the means of a wheel, horsehair strap and a bow which was never built. Leonardo tried to improve musical instruments by creating mechanisms that could enhance the tonal quality of the instruments.

We should point out that his talents made him a good comedian as interpretations and hasty narratives were a widespread form of entertainment. So, he was highly valued due to his position and occupation, like all the producers, and in the meantime he would conquer all with his gracious and pleasant character. He soon made new friends, from the company of enthusiasts in the court who shared common goals and quests and made research a participative and entertaining work. 

“A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.” 


Leonardo’s particularities

rare portrait of Leonardo da VinciLeonard was a person of “exceptional beauty and indescribable grace,” wrote Vazari, a historian of the time and the first Leonardo biographer.He was friendly and generous, and everyone liked his company. Contrary to the foggy landscape of Florence, he found a fertile environment for encounters and meetings.He was dressed in colored clothes shorter than usual and he was not afraid to emphasize his distinctiveness.He was interested in spiritual gain rather than in material wealth, and he did not hesitate to disapprove of those who focused on material goods.

“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of man.”

Sensitive to the animals, he was a vegetarian and he preferred to wear linens rather than clothes made by animals. One of his colleagues wrote after a trip to India that people there were not used to consume animals as several people in Florence, referring to Leonardo.In his labels, he mentions the difference of the animals from the plants, where, in contrast with the second, the animals could feel the pain of being killed for their skin or flesh.

It is noted that his sensitivity reached such an extent that, at the bazaar, he freed the birds from their cages by paying the price to the person owning them. 


Leonardo da Vinci and Salai, the little devil

One of Leonardo’s favored, who, despite all his defects, had been co-operating with him throughout his life was Salai or the little Devil, as he was called by Leonardo. He was his assistant, companion, student, and, at some point, his lover. He won the lifelong affection of his then nearly 40-year-old teacher as Leonardo found him irresistible. Vasari described the boy as “a graceful and beautiful youth, with fine curly hair in which Leonardo  greatly delighted.” His name was Giacomo Caprotti but Leonardo changed Giacomo’s name to Salai, meaning little devil. It was a name that would stick with him for life.

He came close to his teacher at the age of 10 and studied with Leonardo, who was then 38 years old. Even though Leonardo seldom writes personal notes in his notebooks, he wrote that, at a dinner where he had asked him to accompany him, he “ate for two and made damage for four.” He was accused of stealing and a series of small deceits, but Leonardo was having fun with his passions and continued to keep him in his company.

Salai has often posed for Leonardo’s studies.  He also often sketched drawings with an older man and a younger man.Sketch page 135.Throughout his life, Leonardo was dazzled with Salai with his rich curls which he liked to portray.Even in the last years of his life we find a vain portrait that he portrayed outof his memory. Leonardo and Salai stayed together for nearly 30 years and  Da Vinci even remembered him in his will for his “good and kind services.” 


 The Vitruvian Man 


What is the Vitruvian Man?

During his stay in Milan, Leonardo made great studies; one of the great achievements for which today he is world-renowned was the study of the Vitruvian Man

 Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, born around 80 BC, served with the military duties of Julius Caesar.One of his precious teachings in history was the treatise on body proportions, a thorough description of the fact that the architecture of buildings must follow the proportions of the human body.

Da Vinci Vitruve Man - Luc ViatourMany have tried to paint and design this work, such as Jacomo Andrea, and Francesco di Tzortzo, but none touched Leonardo’s excellence and perfectionism. The Vitruvian Man of Leonardo, not only did he expose the writer’s promptings, but also proceeded to further observations of his own. He specified that “If you open your legs so much as to decrease your height 1/14 and spread and raise your arms till your middle fingers touch the level of the top of your head you must know that the center of the outspread limbs will be in the navel and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle. The length of a man’s outspread arms is equal to his height.”

Leonardo drew the Vitruvian Man in 1492. Rendered in pen, ink, and metal point on paper, the piece depicts an idealized nude male standing within a square and a circle. Ingeniously, Leonardo chose to depict the man with four legs and four arms, allowing him to strike 16 poses simultaneously. Leonardo also made some corrections to the proposed descriptive design, such as that the tread does not fit six times at the height of the man’s height but seven.

The sketch is said to be a self-portrait of the same, who was then 38 years old, and as he depicted in his writings: 


“Every painter draws himself.”   



The Unfinished Sculpture of Leonardo

Designed to reach seven meters in height and weighing seventy-five tons, The Equestrian Statue is a work like many of Leonardo that would never be finished.

It was a towering equestrian monument that he planned to cast in bronze and it was one of the projects he proposed to take on when he first asked Ludovico for work in the early 1480s. So, at the court, in order to show the glory of Ludovico, he conceived the design of a brass rider and his horse. In order to find the posture of the rider and the animal and perfecting the monument’s glorious posture, he had to study the anatomy of the horse, an animal that he admired. He also studied other similar statues and was enchanted by the sense of movement that they would display.  By that date, these monuments had not exceeded three and a half meters in height.

He also managed to complete the horse’s mold, which would be made in a single piece that was a pioneer experiment for the time.  Until then, the molds were crafted into pieces and were dissembled afterwards. He spent a lot of time studying over the anatomy of the sculpture, and the right compositions and mixtures of materials to achieve the best result. However the fate of the statue was not so promising after all. Finally, the unmade Horse was the work, more than any other, that epitomized Leonardo’s reputation as an artist who never finished anything. 


The … misfortune of the monument

Leonardo did manage to complete a clay version of his statue but, due to the tensions of the time and the attacks by French troops in 1494, the metal that was going to be used in order to mold the statue was used in order to construct three cannons. In addition, the French archers used the great monument for target practice, destroying it completely. Legend has it that Leonardo mourned the loss of his horse up until his death. Anyway, we are unable to put the blame on the sculptor this time; however, he was not able to finish his work. Luckily for the modern world though, da Vinci left behind many detailed notes and images of his horse in his famous notebooks.  

“He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.”  


Working for Ludovico

The Equestrian Statue would realize his dream of creating the world’s largest equine monument as he was commissioned to do so by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico, who provided him with a salary and accommodation. In time, he would give him a vineyard just outside Milan, where it would be the place where he would test his flying machines in the future.  That place was a property that he would keep until the end of his life.

“Leonardo da Vinci, a mechanic and a painter,” was the title he managed to accomplish as this accomplishment was what he had been seeking for a long time. His salary could cover the cost of two assistants and four students who followed him and helped him accomplish his work.

As such, with his reputation, his esteem and his strong connection to the court, he would enter the world of creation and he would enchant his encounters with his brilliant thinking. 


Leonardo da Vinci as a scientist

Leonardo da Vinci was a renowned scientist, often ahead of his time with the scientific discoveries he made and the theories he formulated. As it is well known, this genius drew sketches and plans with perseverance and dedication on diverse issues.

Based on research and experimentation, which he endorsed with theory and strengthened his results, he applied what he would note in his sketch book: Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast. Practice must always be founded on sound theory.

Although he never learned Latin, the spread of book printing written in the Italian language helped the theorization of his studies. He had in his possession over forty books of a variety of subjects and it is known that he borrowed a lot. We do not underestimate, in his evolution and his outgoing personality, the fact that the creator did not stop bombing his acquaintances with questions and outlining patterns of thought that must worry us, sharpening the imagination of the people around him…

Thus, with this mixture of thesis and eagerness, Leonardo shaped his way into discoveries and revelations. 


Research fields 


“The artist infuses his work with scientific data…”


With his studies of biology and civil engineering, astronomy and human anatomy, the Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci is the polymath we think of when describing a Renaissance man. The unmet curiosity of Leonardo improved his knowledge of the two dimensional representation of figures and machines, anatomy and geometry. He engaged in research by building of muscles and bones comparting the body of humans and that of the animals. He conceived and drew flying machines that were not intended for flight but were used to replicate machines that would be used in his theatrical performances were a puzzle that mattered to him. The possibility of a human flying drove him into the questioning of such machines, which was based on the observation of birds on flight and their anatomy.

He notes. “Study the anatomy of a bird’s wings along with the muscles of the chest moving them. Do the same for man, so that you can see that it is possible to keep himself in the air with the movement of wings.” And he tried post-testing their construction by wearing a life jacket over water.

He has worked in physics and mathematics and engineering to construct machines of various types such as needle making machines, hair milling machines, paper mills, watermills, water-powered engines to exploit perpetual water movement and much more.

Leonardo, in a fruitful discussion with mathematics and geometry, he produced a series of studies on the area of shapes and the squaring of the circle. He had a skull that had been sliced so that it would be possible to observe it from the inside and had often sketched, trying to understand the functioning of the human body. He also studied the human analogy starting from the Vitruvius Man.

As we study his efforts in science, we ask ourselves: How could a painter excel in such fields of knowledge? Perhaps because such learning improved both his art and the artist’s standing more generally. All this research in various fields was to him first and foremost a means to gaining knowledge of the visible world, such as he would need for his art. 

“All knowledge which ends in words will die as quickly as it came to life, with the exception of the written word: which is its mechanical part.” 


What was Da Vinci’s Scientific Method?

Da Vinci is often described as being a true Renaissance polymath, a person who wishes to understand all branches of knowledge. As such, Da Vinci he considered viewed scientific research as a complement to his researches in art and languages as well as to the study of theology. Thus, Da Vinci’s scientific method consisted of a mix of observation of the world around him and the physical experimentation. Da Vinci’s scientific endeavours were so ahead of his time that he has anticipated many devices that we consider to be ‘modern’.

Luca Pacioli

Leonardo would cover some of his weaknesses in mathematics by his friend and colleague Luca Pacioli, a pedagogue and monk later on despite the fact that he never lived in a monastery. He wrote a manual in mathematics but written in the Italian language rather than in Latin as it was accustomed, in such a way he communicated widely his knowledge. Pacioli was invited by Ludovico to go to Milan to teach mathematics at Ludovico Sforza’s court. This invitation may have been made at the prompting of Leonardo da Vinci.

Their genuine interest joined them in their puzzles and games such as making a coin drifting up and down in a glass but also mental games such as math games.

At Milan, Pacioli and Leonardo quickly became close friends. Mathematics and art were topics which they discussed at length, both gaining greatly from the other. At this time Pacioli began work on the second of his two famous works, Divina proportione and the figures for the text were drawn by Leonardo. Leonardo learned about the theorems of Euclid, the Euclidean geometry, beside him and to manipulate the square roots.

Probably from this encounter he also learned the golden ratio that we often find in Leonardo’s applications. 


“Common Sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses.”


Leonardo da Vinci considered as the Father of Sign Language 

Leonardo, in his never-ending study of the human body, claimed that, in order to study human gestures and expressions, he must bear in mind the communication of deaf people who try to imply and express their thoughts. All these intense movements were an inspirational input to his research on human expression of feelings and intentions. 


The Virgin of the Rocks

Leonardo Da Vinci Vergine delle Rocce in Louvre- The virgin of the rocksWith this study of the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, one in the Louvre and the other in the National Gallery in London, the artist managed to express his insight in geology and botany besides demonstrating the deep study of expression – posture, shade and light. The original picture was undertaken by Leonardo not long after entering the service of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. The first version is painted by him and the second only with his contribution. After all, co-operation in art was something usual. The only difference in the two compositions is the angel’s hand, which is something the painter added afterwards, interposed between the hand of the Virgin Mary which is protectively extended over the head of the Divine Infant. The London version seems more correct as The Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery contains some details generally overlooked by the artist in the Louvre version, including the haloes of the figures, the child Saint John’s cross of reeds.

This order, due to a price discrepancy, due to the costs being disproportionate to the agreed price, was never delivered. The piece of art was probably sold to another customer ending up in the Louvre. The second work of painting was never delivered as well.

We are enchanted up to now by the angel figure in one of his drafts on the painting, showing his hermaphrodite stance. 


The Portrait of a Musician

This work is unclear in many parts of its history. We do not know for sure who is portrayed, whether it was an order or if it was delivered. And as it will not surprise us if it was unfinished and we do not know why this was the case.

The portrait of a musician da VinciIt is not even sure ιf Leonardo himself did it. First of all, if indeed Leonardo was the painter, Portrait Of A Musician would be the only portrait he did of a man. Moreover, another issue that puzzled the academics was the fact that the shadows were very intense, and Leonardo preferred the soft shadows in his portraits. At the same time, the gaze is turned to the same direction as the body which he preferred not to use.

Academics assume that the person posing for the portrait was the musician Atalante Miglioroti, who accompanied him a few years ago on his journey to Milan and taught him how to play the lyre.

Since he did not work or keep lists of his works, it is difficult to know with certainty which works belong to him with confidence.

Anyway, what makes this piece of artwork a possible Leonardo da Vinci? The answer probably lies in the common characteristics which exist in each of his portraiture works, such as: 

  • The backgrounds are left in shadow;
  • The figures are shown at half-length or slightly more;
  • The subjects are carefully positioned at a three-quarter turn so as to improve viewer identification of the sitter;
  • The artist understood perfectly the bone structure beneath the flesh and
  • The pose was enforced with the details of the exquisitely curling hair and the elegant fingers.

All these elements were very common to Leonardo’s work.

This work was left unfinished, though at quite an advanced stage, something typical of Leonardo… However, the face and hair appear well worked and the remaining elements were left in the state of an advanced draft. 


“Nature never breaks her own laws.”



The Lady with An Ermine

The Lady with an Ermine da VinciSparkles us even today for the magical photographing of the moment, a pre-decided and pre-directed portrait, which portrays the concept of surprise by the unexpectedly appearing Ludovico. The subject of the portrait is identified as the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and mother of his illegitimate child and Leonardo was in the service of the Duke. Although he was in love with her, he was married to Beatrice d’Este. Nevertheless, he arranged her marriage to a count and she was absorbed by her reading and literary arts.

After seven years Leonardo’s stay in Milan, this was his first order, and he executed it in a masterful way.

In this work it is obvious how the secondary light that comes from the ermine illuminates the face of the portrayed person. Lady with an Ermine has been heavily over painted. The entire background was darkened, her dress below the ermine was retouched and a transparent veil being worn by the woman was repainted to match the colour of her hair. The result of this last retouching has been to give the appearance that her hair reaches down and underneath her chin. Yet another change was the addition of dark shadows between the fingers of her right hand.

There is no doubt that the Lady with an Ermine is a captivating image of exquisite elegance and reveals the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci’s incomparable creative mind. 



La Belle Feroniniere of Leonardo da Vinci

La belle ferronnière Leonardo da Vinci in Louvre

The second order that Leonard received from Ludovico is the portrait of Lucrezia Crivelli, who, like Cecilia Gallerani, was his illustrious mistress and also gave birth to his son. Its excessively bright jaw and the dull way the hair is painted, makes some researchers doubt whether Leonardo contributed in the painting or whether it was due to the interference of others, like an apprentice. Another possible answer is that this was a joint project carried out by several artists at the School of Leonardo, and based on a design by him.

So, academics are not sure whether this may, or may not be, Leonardo’s work. The fact is that the pose is stiff, which would be unusual for Leonardo, and the woman’s features are thicker and heavier than those normally found in his portraits. 




La Bella Principessa of Leonardo da Vinci

This painting was discovered by Peter Silverman at an art auction of nineteenth century art, assumed to be drawn by a German artist who imitated the Italian Renaissance. And it was rescued by the great art-history adventurer.

Is this a Leonardo da Vinci? Another work we are not sure whether this may, or may not be, Leonardo’s work. It is a portrait in coloured chalks and ink, on vellum, of a young lady in fashionable costume and hairstyle of a Milanese of the 1490s.

The attribution to Leonardo da Vinci has been disputed. There are elements that strengthen the contradicting views. On the one hand, the origin of the style of hairdressing and clothing, presumes the influences from Florence for the first and Milan for the second, the areas where the artist lived.

It is also known that the sketch was part of a set that contributed to a book piece. The story goes a long way with the assumption that Leonardo’s fingerprint was found who was using his fingers to practice the technique that dictated the sfumato.

Infrared rays also showed the artist’s left-handed touch. However, the shadows depicting this princess are too strict to be crafted by Leonardo.  


The Trend of Leonardo da Vinci

Pacolli reports that Leonardo edited the portfolio of “About Painting and Human Movement”, which he practiced until the last years of his life, and, as he did with his paintings, this is another work he never published or completed. These manuscripts reveal that the science of art turned into an art of science and a delightful insight into his research. He explored the light and his reflections on the molding of the models. The gradation of tones, in order to create shadows, was genius and he studied the perspective in order to create real masterpieces.  

“Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness”. 



The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci 

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began what would become one of history’s most influential works of art – The Last Supper. The Last Supper was completed in 1498, when, upon the order of the Duke, Leonardo delivered the work finished on the north wall of Monastery in the heart of Milan, the Santa Maria de la Gracie.

Testimonies of the time say that Leonardo “came here in the early hours and climbed to the scaffolding and then stayed there with the brush in hand from sunrise to sunset forgetting to eat or drink, drawing non-stop.” Other times, he appeared in the middle of the day, and “he climbed on the scaffolding, he grabbed a brush, put a brush stroke on one or two of the figures and then left suddenly.”

He explained in his letter to the Duke who was worried about a potential delay of the painting’s delivery, that one should proceed slowly, to stop and postpone things so that thoughts ripen. And he notes that “the clever people achieve more while they work less.”Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper

The Last Supper is Leonardo’s visual interpretation of an event chronicled in all four of the Gospels (books in the Christian New Testament). It depicts the next few seconds in this story after Christ dropped the bomb shell that one disciple would betray him before sunrise, showing how all twelve disciples have reacted to the news with different degrees of horror, anger and shock. Leonardo masterfully depicts a drama where all the actors converge in their theatricality with their own movements and expressions. He manages to capture the movement of the soul – moti dell ‘ anima, by reflecting on the intentions they have in mind. The Twelve Disciples, the Apostles of Christ, are divided into groups of three, orchestrating an interesting rhythm in his subject. Judas is shaded more sharply, testifying his guilt, and feminine-like Saint John is said to symbolize Mary Magdalene. In spite of the intensity of the scene, Christ stands patient and serene in the middle of the composition and conveys the viewer’s gaze. The project is a genius composition that excels in the laws of perspective and the rules of physics.

The painting was made using experimental pigments directly on the dry plaster wall and unlike frescos, where the pigments are mixed with the wet plaster, it has not stood the test of time well. Even before it was finished there were problems with the paint flaking from the wall and Leonardo had to repair it.  However, just twenty years after the project’s delivery, the paint began to shake, and Leonardo’s experimental design and testing of materials failed. Today we can only see fragments of the wall painting by the addition of restoration of the missing pieces with a lighter color than that of the original. 


The Death of Leonardo da Vinci’s mother

In 1497, three years after her husband’s death and the death of her son by the arrow of a crossbow, Katerina moved to Milan to live with Leonardo. Three months later she died of malaria, before attempting to shake the waters of the artist’s life. Leonardo, in his notes, had a detailed list of the expenses for her funeral and interment, a decent ceremony with many candles and four priests; however he spent less compared to the amount he spent for a sari for Salai, as we will see later on his balance sheets.

Time for change… again…

Due to the professional difficulties that Leonardo was facing in the courtyard of the Duke who refused to compensate him for his work and due to the fact that his horse statue was transformed into a firing target for the French troops, Leonardo was deeply dissatisfied.  The political upheaval wanted Louis XIII of France to be the conqueror of Milan and the Duke to leave the city. Leonardo had smooth relationships with the French conquerors and he had opened some discussions about cooperation. Indeed, Louis XII, in the glance of the Last Supper, expressed the desire to move the work to France, but the engineer responded that it was technically impossible.

So Leonardo decided to return home, in Florence, where it would be around 1500 and would become one of his most productive seasons.


Leonardo da Vinci…Travel to Florence

Ludovico SforzaSo, after the fall of Ludovico Sforza, his patron in Milan, Leonardo returned to Florence, the city of his youth. Florence had undergone some political and social changes as Leonardo was pursuing his art career in Milan. The brief acquisition of power by Girolamo Savonarola, head of a religious struggle, downplayed a Puritan rule in the city where homosexuals and sodomy was punished with stoning or death in the fire. Eventually, the public condemned him to hanging by liberating the spirits of the city, which due to all this was covered by a veil of reduced self-confidence and vitality. In this spirit of change, Leonardo returned to his birthtown to embody the message of diversity and artistic estrus.

Within a year Leonardo was back in Florence, where he was commissioned to paint a huge mural, the Battle of Anghiari, in the Palazzo della Signoria. He worked on that painting for the next three years, while he was also making maps for the Florentine government and was beginning the Mona Lisa as well as a painting of Leda and the Swan. He tried to reestablish himself as a painter, but was reported to be preoccupied with geometry and ‘very impatient with the brush’.

It is worth mentioning that in 1506 the French occupiers of Milan requested that Leonardo return to Milan, and for the next two years he travelled repeatedly between Milan and Florence. 


 A Stop at Mantua while he was going back to Florence

On his trip he stopped at Mantua where Isabella d’Este asked him to paint her portrait. This famous drawing is a sketch for the portrait that was never painted. However, later on, she asked Leonardo to make another portrait of the chalk drawing. After a total rejection of all other artists, Leonardo was believed that he was the most appropriate person to make her portrait. It would have the side stance that was widespread for the depiction of rulers, a posture that uninterested Leonardo. He used to set his models in place of three quarters a position that allowed them to express their feelings and their minds, their psychographies. So despite the years of perseverance of the Duchess, the prosperous artist had conquered a position in society which allowed him to politely reject the noble orders if the subject did not interest him, like the Isabela portrait that would never even begin to initiate.

Anyway, it is one of Leonardo’s finest head-and-shoulders portraits, here with the head in profile. It is also the only known drawing that is highlighted with several colored pigments. Though unfinished, this sketch is remarkable for its proportions, and for the foreshortening of the bust; it is also striking for the ambiguous choice of pose. The perfectly linear profile, eyes gazing beyond our field of vision, contrasts with the turn of the body. 


Da Vinci’s life around 50

In Florence, Leonardo has his own status and fame and so did his family. He was wealthy and he could support the followers and his students. He could choose his work, and deal with things that interest him like the flight of birds, resulting in lurking in the fields and studying.

He did not hide his diversity, and he was used to take care of his clothes with lacy and velvet mantles in pink colors for himself and for Salai. As much as he spent on his appearance, he was looking forward to spending for his spiritual growth, hence his books reached 116 volumes, focusing on perspective, Euclidean geometry, medicine and architecture. 


Madonna of the Yarnwinder or The Virgin Mary with the Spindle

Leonardo da Vinci Madonna of the Yarnwinder Buccleuch versionThis version of the Virgin with Jesus was for Leonardo to shape his masterpiece like an inspiration to Rafael and all the painters all over Europe. In this picture, the Infant Jesus holds a spinning wheel in the form of a cross, which symbolizes his acceptance of his destiny. Madonna, according to the plot of the picture, cannot yet accept the destiny of her divine son for the heart, and therefore the hand of the Virgin Mary is raised in a protective gesture. Both figures are painted with wit, and their hands to impart the emotion and historiography of the story.

A close look shows this work was based around the geometric figures of triangles and ellipses.

However, we are not sure if this piece of work was made by Leonardo; researchers believe that Leonardo da Vinci only started the painter and that it was finished the pupils of his studio since the production in his studio was loud and the copies made in the studio he opened in Florence numbered forty. However, a beam study showed that the work was painted on the wood directly without a blueprint that only Leonardo could decide on, and some corrections were made to the drawing testifying that it was not a copy but an original painting drawn by the artist himself.  

“The spirit desires to remain with its body, because, without the organic instruments of that body, it can neither act, nor feel anything.” 


The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

From this study, we have an incomplete homonymous work that is now in the Louvre, and a magical sketch drawing in London, that is kept and presented in low light to limit the wear and tear of time. Both works are examples of Leonardo’s ability to dramatically and mechanically direct his figures, the use of the sfumato technique and the perspective of the distance of the objects, his delicate shadowing and his knowledge of geology.

The Virgin and Child with Saint AnneThe famous painting “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” offers a glimpse into the subconscious of Leonardo da Vinci.

The painting depicts the Virgin Mary guarding baby Jesus and peacefully sitting on the lap of her mother, St. Anne. Christ is petting a small lamb, which is the symbol of his suffering and sacrifice for the benefit of mankind and the Holly Infant embraces and will not let anyone part him from it. The positions of biblical figures in historical paintings are never random; they are always allusions to the lives of the figures and of various Christian metaphors.

The painting, as expected, was never delivered, and it was left in Leonardo’s possession who kept on adding things and improving it for years.

Freud in his study of Leonardo will examine the fact that Christ has two mothers, as Leonardo had two mothers Katerina and his step mother. He also hypothesized that there was a reminiscence of da Vinci’s own “two mothers.”

Moreover, in his psychoanalytic examination of “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne,” titled “Leonardo da Vinci and A Memory of His Childhood,” Freud revealed hypothetical details of da Vinci’s childhood and repressed sexual desire. He discovered that if the painting is turned sideways, the shaped made by one of the Virgin Mary’s garments depicts a bird, most likely a vulture. Freud claimed that the symbol of the vulture is da Vinci’s representation of his repressed homosexual desire from his childhood, which was triggered by his faint memory of him sucking his mother’s nipple as an infant.  Freud supported his theory with the fact that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicted the term “mother” with the symbol of a vulture. 


Leda and the Swan of Leonardo da Vinci

Leda and the Swan of Leonardo da Vinci.Leonardo was very absorbed with the theme of Leda. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, Leda and the Swan, is a depiction of the Greek myth concerning Leda, a daughter of the King of Aetolia, and Zeus, the king of the gods. It shows the moment when Zeus, saw Leda and he was so smitten by her beauty that he changed into a swan and coupled with her. Leda gave birth to two eggs, and each egg hatched twin babies. In the image, Leda looks down tenderly upon her babies, while the curves of her body stand in counterpoint to the sinuous lines of the swan, its head resting upon her shoulder. The flowers that Leda holds in her hand are a symbol of purity.

It’s a lost work by Leonardo, the only one depicting an erotic content; although by examining the painting more carefully, we realize that the issue for the artist was the reproduction and fertility. The representation and the copy of the painting are preserved by Frantsesco Melsi, a student of Leonardo who had defined him as his modern heir. The multiple copies ​​found in his studio and other records of the time are attributed to him being able to create the work himself.

The story says that Madame de Maintenon, the mournful and hidden Second Lady of the Ludwig XII, destroyed the painting because it was scandalously erotic. This assertion is not imputed. 


The Savior of the World of Leonardo da Vinci

salvador mundi of Leonardo da Vinci On the 15th of November 2017, Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, ‘Salvator Mundi’, (The Savior of the World) smashed artwork auction records when it was sold for US$ 450.3 million.  With careful investigations and cleaning from deep varnish wipers, they revealed elements that attribute the work as a true achievement of Leonardo, along with the testimonies of the time that the artist had made such a work. However, art historians agree that it was painted around 1500, but disagree on whether or not it was painted by Da Vinci.

The painting depicts Christ in Renaissance dress, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, while holding a transparent, non-refracting crystal orb in his left, signaling his role as ‘Savior of the World’ and representing the ‘celestial sphere’ of the heavens. The foggy heavens of Jesus, along with the use of the chromatic perspective, give us the impression that Jesus’ hands tend to us. It is a reflection of the scholars that how comes and Leonardo did not, after his profound study in the optics, portray the transformation and diffusion of the image through a crystal or a prism. Rather, he assumed that this would bury the viewer’s eye and preferred to capture it without the reflection. 


On Cesare’s services

After twenty years since he had presented himself as a war engineer before Ludovico, it was meant for him to finally take this position for an eight-month period next to the tyrant Cesare Borgia. Between 1502 and 1503, Leonardo served as his chief military architect and engineer. In the service of the unscrupulous conqueror that wiped out villages and ordered the execution of potential rivals publicly, Leonardo would have carried out numerous inquiries that would reveal the avid enthusiasm and inventiveness. Borgia needed an engineer who could ford rivers with bridges, build siege engines to subdue recalcitrant towns, and fortify them once they’d been captured. Leonardo leapt at the opportunity but his work for the rapacious Cesare Borgia did not last long. The incessant massacres of Borgia persuaded Leonardo to resign his commission and return to Florence. Freud, in his analysis on the character of Leonardo, points out that the artist was attracted by strong and leading figures that were a substitute for his dynamic father, who ruled Leonardo with his absence. 


Plumbing works

During the time he spent in Florence, he was invited to investigate and perform projects on the irrigation and the diversion of Arno River as well as the drying of Piombino swamps. Both projects were not carried out, but they testify Leonardo’s insight and his sketches touched the borders of imagination of the time, all of which have now been tested; there were also experiments in flying machines, diving suits and more. He also envisioned the realization of a floating passage from Florence to the Mediterranean.

His studies on plumbing are based on the collaboration of engineer with nature. As he remarks: “The river that one is going to divert and change its course he must embrace it and not to handle it with harshly or with violence.” By studying the modern systems of water supply in Milan, he aimed to improve the system in Florence, but since the public funds had been drained at the time, he did not manage to realize some of his exuberant plans. 


Michelangelo, two geniuses in the same city

In the absence of Leonardo in Milan, Michelangelo, a young painter evolved into an artistic genius and would later on leave his mark in history too. He was more arrogant and peculiar than Leonardo and did not share Leonardo’s beauty, neither was he appreciated by his surroundings. He came in rivalry with many colleagues and artists of his time, even with Leonardo himself. Michelangelo and Leonardo felt “an intense dislike for each other,” says their biographer Vasari. When Leonardo invited him to comment on the findings of a conversation about a passage of Dante, he thought he was mocking him and he was trying to entrap him and he immediately reproached him and offensively accused him for the unsuccessful completion of his giant horse. “…explain it yourself, horse-modeller that you are, who, unable to cast a statue in bronze, were forced to give up the attempt in shame”. Then, he turned his back on them and left. Leonardo remained silent and blushed at these words.

Both were homosexuals, but unlike Leonardo, Michelangelo did not show his sexual orientation and love preferences and he was possibly self-inflicted on celibacy. He was an ascetic painter with his only companion melancholy, as he noted later.

Leonardo often referred to Michelangelo’s sculptural representations as “sacks of walnuts” because of the elaborate muscly representation of his design. Although Leonardo was not accustomed to criticize other painters, he openly underestimated Michelangelo’s work. “You do not have to make all the muscles of a body distinct … as you will create a sack of walnuts instead of a human form.”

The two men, Leonardo, a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career, and the youngest Michelangelo, a temperamental artist in his mid-twenties who was desperate to make a name for himself, would stay under the same roof for the completion of two historic giant frescoes that they both would never complete. 


The Colossal Fresco

The Battle of Anghiari was an assignment that would mark the magnificence of his painting skill and research for the Sala del Gran Consiglio, the recently rebuilt Great Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, during the first years of the city’s republican government.. It is known to us only through some drawings he crafted while studying it.

It would take one third of a wall that was 53 meters, a gigantic work that would be a reminiscence of Florence’s glorious victory in the fight with Milan. The battle scene that Leonardo planned was a layout of horses with twisted grimaces and fierce riders that stepped on losing fighters. He wrote: “There must be no point that does not reveal torture and that it is not drenched with blood.” The furious sketches he created, depicted the odor and the terror of war, pointing to his deepening in anatomy where the expressions of the mouth effect the positioning of the nose and the eyebrows.

The difficulties he faced during the process stood in vain for the termination of his involvement with the work. Since then, the painter would not accept any other public order…   

“Our life is made by the death of others.” 


The death of his father

His father’s death took place when he was trying to perform the painting of The Battle of Anghiari.

Piero da Vinci Leonardo da Vincis fatherPiero never recognized him as his legitimate son, although he helped him achieve at least three orders but with tight contracts and the condition to complete the paintings, which Leonardo often did not. This surely created tensions between them.

Piero married four times and, with his two youngest brides, younger than Leonardo, he had nine sons and two daughters. He had many of these legitimate children when he was over seventy years old. Later on, Leonardo would have inheritance issues with his step brothers and sisters about an estate just outside Vinci, which would remain in Leonardo’s possession but after his death it would pass on to their children.

Βy not legitimizing him as his son, Piero was like as he was renouncing him. He might have done this because he considered him successful, although he did not have the financial power to support the team that followed him.However it was an occurrence that was surely not pleasing to Leonardo. 



Return to Milan

In 1506, two years after his father’s death, he returned to Milan where he remained for the next seven years, enjoying the patronage of Charles d’Amboise, the French Governor of Milan, and King Louis XII.

He initially sought to do the work of a mechanic and a researcher along with that of a painter as he had been recruited by Ludovico.  We should not forget that in Milan he was extremely dear and acceptable to his circles. Ludovico himself would have liked to release him from his contract of The Battle of Anghiari by his Florentine contenders who insisted that the artist should return to the city. Leonardo, for the second time, left a great work in the middle while leaving for Milan, as he did, twenty-four years ago, with The Proclamation of the Magi.

However, this was a period in which Leonardo delved heavily into scientific activities, which included anatomical, mathematic, mechanical, and botanical studies and the creation of his famous flying machine. Moreover, notable commissions during this period included work on a bridge building, and a project to create a waterway to link Milan with Lake Como. He also devised efficient military weapons, such as an early example of the machine gun, and his famous large crossbow. 


Review of Florence

For him, Florence was an image of bohemian life, a life full of artists, a place where he did not seek to become only a painter but also an inventor and to test all of his many talents. At the same time, being away in Milan, he avoided competitors like Michelangelo, his half-brothers who were young enough to be his children as well as the ‘ghost’ of his father.

However, his researches, during his stay in Florence, were very creative: he dissected the body of a dead man, tried one of his flying machines and his diving inventions, and his notebooks were full of geology studies, notes referring to the perspective, the anatomy and the architecture. 


Leonardo and Francesco Melzi

Francesco Melzi

Around 1507, Leonardo, 55, adopted Francesco Melzi, a fourteen-year-old boy who was thought as he was his son. Drawn to the arts, though, he never became a great painter since he had a more timid nature, certainly less naughty than Salai. Meltsi will become his student, his heir and secretary. Together with Salai, they would stay by his side until the end of his life, and it would be him the person who inherited the artistic and scientific works, manuscripts, and collections of Leonardo.

The mature Leonardo now had the need of an heir, a son, to be an apprentice for him and follow him. 



“Our body is dependant on Heaven and Heaven on spirit”


Anatomy Again

Leonardo performed an autopsy in at least 30 bodies throughout his entire life, and he wrote thousands of words on the anatomy of the human body as well as on that of the animals. He made his first experiments on an elderly man who claimed to be over a hundred years old as well as on a two-month-old baby and he compared both results. He pointed out: “The network of veins behaves in man as in oranges, in which the skin hardens and the flesh decreases as time passes.” He filled his sketchbooks with bones and muscles in different positions drawn from different angles and drew a manual that would be very helpful in science if it had been published.

He studied various topics such as the spine’s curvature, the heart that looked like a fruit whose roots resemble our venous system, the aortic valve and the fetus. And even though in his time the dissection was considered a heresy act, Leonardo claimed that it was a way of appreciating the miraculous creation of God. He did not hesitate to symbolize the human body with his mechanical studies and admired the way the human body could work. He wrote: “Besides human ingenuity being able to lead to various inventions, it will never devise anything that is more beautiful, more simple and more complete to what Nature has created, where nothing is missing and nothing is in excess.”

In his anatomical studies, he was preoccupied by the muscles that are responsible for the human smile and expression, and taught that the numbers of the muscles that move the lips are more to man compared to any other animal. This study, as well as the essence of his knowledge, contributed greatly to the unique smile of Mona Lisa. He is the only artist in history to have dissected the human and horse face to see if the muscles that move the face are the same or not. 

Other areas of research

During the period that he was in Milan for the second time, we may find in his textbooks a vivid curiosity about a variety of topics. He reviewed opinions, deepened others, defended older thoughts, and the result was a series of vigorous notes on engineering, on waterways and whirlpools, on fossils, on astrology, and on why the sky is blue. He did not hesitate to compare the human body with the earth and its functions and he claimed that emotions as the sound and the light transmitted through waves. 

In the Medici House

He undertook some anatomic studies with the surgeon Marcantonio della Torre, who had been left in the middle due toa swine fever the doctor received. This was unpleasant for him since his studies had been under way and possibly he would help him to publish the findings of his researches. Waiting for the epidemic to pass through, he settled in the provincial estate of Medici, where he spent his sixtieth birthday together with his son Medici, who had been counting over twenty-one years, and Salai was thirty-two years old. In this quiet resort, he would have attempted some dissections on animals as he continued his studies on geology with the possibility of publishing them, something he never did.

A stop in Rome

In 1512, the French began to lose control of Milan, and Leonardo decided to avoid this political turmoil finding shelter in Rome, under the protection of his new patron, Giuliano, a lover of art and science, who had set up, in Rome, a circle of scholars and artists where Leonardo would become a member of. He would have a permanent salary that would free Leonardo from order hunting, and he would stay in the rooms that he provided for him. It was a delightful period in the artist’s life where he could share his knowledge with other scholars and he could explore the rare botany findings of the area and study the prismatic surfaces. His interest in them was profound as they could also serve as war machines. 


St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during 1513 to 1516. This is an oil painting on walnut wood. This piece of work is one of the paintings that he would keep under his possession until the end of his life, fixing it and adding touches until his death. The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. Leonardo Da Vinci Saint John the BaptistThis posture marked Leonardo and it is the posture by which Raphael painted him, suggesting Plato pointing his finger to the sky. This work, as elsewhere, indicates Leonardo’s explicit eroticism as he gave a delight of the flesh and a feminine man figure, recognized as hermaphroditism, even on the holy figures. Many people are critical of this work since this was a character living in a desert and surviving on a diet of locusts and honey. In Leonardo’s painting St. John the Baptist seems almost to be a hermaphrodite. He has a womanish arm bent across his breast, his finger raised towards heaven, and that same enigmatic smile so admired on the face of Mona Lisa. The finger pointed towards heaven could denote the coming of Christ or it could be the sign of esoteric significance.

“Painting is concerned with all the 10 attributes of sight; which are: Darkness, Light, Solidity and Colour, Form and Position, Distance and Propinquity, Motion and Rest.” 


Leonardo da Vinci’s portraits

Leonardo’s most famous portrait is the Turin Portrait. Skeptic and exhausted in spiritual manipulation with a grimace on the lips and rather melancholic as in all of the portraits that depict the artist. They indicate that he is some years older but rather this was the reality. Leonardo seemed elder than what he really was, embracing an image of wisdom with his long beard and long hair.



Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci Mona LisaHe started painting Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, in 1503 when he was still in the service of Cesare Borgia, and he would take it with him on all his journeys until his last residence in France where he would add strokes by completing his masterpiece.

Mona Lisa is a painting that Leonardo Da Vinci spent many years developing and improving as he could not feel entirely satisfied with his work, but saw enough qualities to motivate him to persevere over a long period.

Vasari in a bold description of the work notes that “it really seemed not to be of colors but of flesh. At the bottom of the neck, if you look at it very closely, you could see the beat of her pulse. “

An avid portrait, which Leonardo rendered the complexity of human emotion and the gentle beauty of the most mysterious smile in the history of Art. This painting is painted as oil on wood. It is a remarkable instance of Leonardo’s sfumato technique of soft, heavily shaded modeling. The Mona Lisa‘s enigmatic expression, which seems both alluring and aloof, has given the portrait universal fame.


The order

Probably Piero recommended Leonardo for this order, as he had close relations with the Giocondo family. Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant who supplied the Medici court, was wealthy enough but not an aristocrat, so he had no absurd demands for the portrait. Being in love with his wife, he asked Leonardo to make her portrait and Leonardo accepted. He took up the offer despite the fact that he had to take over many orders at the time, like the one of Isabella d’Este. He accepted this job because he would be free to do what he wanted with the painting, and it was also hard to deny depicting her cute smile. This was another order that would never reach its original destination. 

“There are four Powers: memory and intellect, desire and covetousness. The two first are mental and the others sensual. The three senses: sight, hearing and smell cannot well be prevented; touch and taste not at all.”


The Table paint of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo imputed all of his mastery and his condensed knowledge in this painting from his studies of light and anatomy and the result justified him. Even the preparation is made out of lead that leaves the color and light more comfortable on the surface.

He has applied the rules of optics and perspective, and her hands seem to be really close to the observer and even if the outlines are still blurred with the supreme application of his Sfumato technique, while the background lengthens in the background. He has succeeded in lighting his model, and applies his principle of making a portrait in dull light when the weather is rainy or when the light falls in the evening. His insight to the rules of seeing is spectacular as the pupils of the eyes are uneven, an observation that certainly could not escape from Leonardo.

Stylish techniques are also noted in the imitation of the creases of the girl’s dress. We should not forget that the portrait was meant to be delivered to a silk dealer first and that he was a distinguished Verrocchio pupil who has, since then shown, his skills in the folds of fabrics. Moreover, the discrete veil that the girl wears on the head and covers her hair what gentle fluctuations it makes with the background, untainted.

The scenery enfolds the figure and looks like it is drawn to it, a union with the nature and landscape that only Leonardo could accomplish after his far-reaching studies. It is a landscape that holds in the depths of science and fantasy. The earth seems to be spinning along with Lisa’s trunk and seems to have a light posture.

The Mona Lisa is famed for two things: her enigmatic smile and her steady gaze, widely believed to follow her viewers around the room. Indeed, this world-renowned painting inspired the name of a scientific phenomenon: the Mona Lisa effect, or the impression that the eyes of the person in an image follow the viewer as they move in front of the picture, does not actually work for Leonardo’s portrait.

As regards the Mona Lisa smile, no matter how long you look at it, it looks very intense and deeply dim, which when we stop looking at it, it is deeply engraved in our memory. Extremely thin lashes of Mona Lisa’s mouth are lightly pushed downwards, but if we notice this smile with our peripheral vision it is illuminating the whole face, forming this detached smile.

A fusion of in-depth knowledge and persistence in study for years contributes to this work that its brush strokes are so thin that they are hardly visible. A project that has at some points more than thirty layers of paint is now admired in the museum of the Louvre. 


Leonardo da Vinci in France – The Final Journey

Leonardo Da Vinci.In autumn of 1516, Leonardo started his final trip to France, invited by the French King, who would be his most consistent patron and would admire him much too. The French King invited Leonardo to the royal summer home, Château du Clos Lucé, near Amboise. More generally, in a review of his life, he constantly escaped to find a patron and he had not always been lucky to do so, nor did the King of the Medici have supported him in Florence, and sent him to Milan with a lyre for a diplomatic gift, nor did he succeed in Milan get some orders until very late.His reputation and his inscriptions helped him to accomplish this goal and managed to spend the last years of his life with comfort and a safety and vigorous insistence on his work to the end.

In his 60s, da Vinci travelled across the mountains from northern Italy to central France, carrying with him sketchbooks and unfinished artwork. The young French king had hired the Renaissance master as “The King’s First Painter, Engineer and Architect.” Leonardo lived in the rehabilitated Medieval fortress from 1516 until his death in 1519. From 1515 on a trip to Bologna he had met the then twenty-one-year-old King of France, Francis I, who had invited him to France. Although he returned to Rome for the closing of some cases, he did not take a while into taking that step when he was sixty-four years old. His companions that came to France, was less a follower. Salai stayed in Milan, but Leonardo had another new servant, Batista de Vilanis, much younger than Salai. Together with him, he took all three of his works found in his possession at his death, “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, “Saint John the Baptist” and “Mona Lisa”.

Francis I

Francis was generous and devoted, charismatic and gentle, educated and a scholar. Leonardo was a good companion, and so was Francis to Leonardo. He loved the arts and science and aspired to bring the Renaissance art to France and somehow he managed to do so. He was extroverted to people and liked the theatrical performances staged for him. Leonardo was the best candidate for his court, as he was a perfect student to Leonardo. Like an ideal patron, he gave him a salary and a whole castler to stay, he did not insist on finishing his paintings, he needed engineering and architecture knowledge, which satisfies Leonardo, as well as organizing theatrical performances. Above all, for Francis, Leonardo was a source of inexhaustible scholarly knowledge  and Leonardo could teach him a lot of things. They spent hours together that prevented unfortunately Leonardo from advancing his studies, but they talked about astronomy, mechanics, architecture, poetry and music.

Francis put Château du Clos Lucé, a beautiful castle five hundred meters from the royal palace at leonardo’s disposal as this castle was very spacious to accommodate majestically all of Leonardo’steam.

Antonio de Beattis

The visit of Priest de Beattis is beneficial to the next generations because it provides us with information that we draw from his diary for the elder Leonardo. In particular, he underlines that he is “the most prominent painter of the time.” Leonardo, though he had not completed his Florentine orders, had managed to form this image of his personality as an artist and painter. He tells us that he looks older than he is and that he had suffered a stroke and his right hand was paralyzed. Luckily, left-handed Leonardo would not suffer from it and he would still be creative. He also presents the information that Leonardo was proudly displaying the three masterpieces he had in his possession, as well as some of his notes in anatomy.


Romorantin Palace

The French King François I commissioned a great work to Leonardo: to design the city of Romorantin from scratch. He called on Leonardo to design and build an entire new city in Romorantin and make this rather small city into the new capital of a blossoming French kingdom. In 1517, on a visit to the city, they designed the palace and their exceptional architectural ideas and Leonardo began to work.

He designed a three-storey palace with spacious rooms large enough to welcome the whole court and host large theater performances. His obsession with the water found a passage and enriched his imagination so that he could design watering systems as well as the diversion of the river flowing to Romorantin, lakes, fountains and more. Leonardo’s design of the city is based on a dynamic concept of managing flows of water, air, energy, and human cognition. He designed an ideal city that was centuries ahead of its time.

This plan was something nature did not allow Leonardo to fulfill, due to his death, and the king would build his new castle in Château de Cloux.

The only thing we could point out for this idea of Leonardo is that Leonardo might have changed the shape of modern cities as he wanted a comfortable and spacious city, with well-ordered streets and architecture and recommended “high, strong walls” and places taking full advantage of the interior and exterior spaces.

The last note

The last page that Leonardo left us is filled with geometry and mathematics experiments. He attempts to change the area of ​​an orthogonal triangle by changing its sides. He presents some variations and next to his thought she closes his note by saying that he is stopping to write because “the soup is cold.”

This is an indication to Leonardo’s personality, as he would trouble himself with great puzzles and complex topics, however he would note things that happen parallel to his life that give us a notion of how clever witty and humorous he was.  

“I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.” 


The end of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo died in Amboise on 2 May 1519, only nine days before he drafted his will. He was quite sick and knew he would die and wanted to protect his followers and his property. Medici was also responsible for the execution of Leonardo’s will, as he was his main heir as his son in law. He left half of the vineyard in Milan to Salai, since they were alienated for some time and the other half to his young servant and companion Batista de Vilanis, as well as some other possessions and his furniture. His step brothers got from him the estate at Vinci, as it had been agreed earlier.

Clos Luce Leonardo da Vinci place of death“As a well-spent day brings a pleasant sleep, so a well-spent life brings a pleasant death” he had said thirty years earlier, and as he was so full of life and adventures, Leonardo left at the age of seventy-seven. He died in the hands of the King and his patron, a scene that has become the theme of many painters. Francis I received his final breaths.

Giorgio Vasari, who was not present, says that Leonardo “smiled” towards Christianity and the Holly virtuous road at the end of his life, and that he confessed a few hours before he died. This is the information that Vasari pointed out, aiming to present a more pious Leonardo.  However, the genius considered scientific knowledge superior to religious belief.

Leonardo was buried in the royal palace, but the current location of his relic remains a mystery. 


Quotes and Mottos of Leonardo da Vinci

See the collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s quotes and mottos by clicking on this link:

Leonardo da Vinci Quotes Collection

This was an analysis of Leonardo da Vinci’s personality and life. If you want to find out which personality you belong to or what kind of Motto suits you, click on the link below:

Motto Personality Test by Motto Cosmos


Get inspired from Leonardo da Vinci most important quotes and mottos:

  • Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.
  • It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
  • The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
  • Learning never exhausts the mind.
  • Water is the driving force of all nature.
  • Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?
  • Art is never finished, only abandoned.
  • Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.
  • Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.
  • The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
  • Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.
  • All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.
  • Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.
  • Who sows virtue reaps honor.
  • Every action needs to be prompted by a motive.
  • The natural desire of good men is knowledge.
  • There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.
  • In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.
  • Just as courage is the danger of life, so is fear its safeguard.
  • Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.
  • Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.
  • Medicine is the restoration of discordant elements; sickness is the discord of the elements infused into the living body.
  • A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.
  • The length of a man’s outspread arms is equal to his height.
  • Science is the captain, and practice the soldiers.
  • Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.
  • You can have no dominion greater or less than that over yourself.
  • The smallest feline is a masterpiece.
  • He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.
  • All knowledge which ends in words will die as quickly as it came to life, with the exception of the written word: which is its mechanical part.
  • Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
  • The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.
  • The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.
  • Knowledge of the past and of the places of the earth is the ornament and food of the mind of man.
  • He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.
  • You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.
  • Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.
  • Time abides long enough for those who make use of it.
  • Each man is always in the middle of the surface of the earth and under the zenith of his own hemisphere, and over the centre of the earth.
  • It is better to imitate ancient than modern work.
  • The poet ranks far below the painter in the representation of visible things, and far below the musician in that of invisible things.
  • Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it.
  • Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.
  • Common Sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses.
  • Nature never breaks her own laws.
  • Our life is made by the death of others.
  • The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.
  • Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments.
  • The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects.
  • There is no object so large but that at a great distance from the eye it does not appear smaller than a smaller object near.
  • Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness.
  • Our body is dependant on Heaven and Heaven on the Spirit.
  • As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.
  • Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.
  • Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature. Necessity is the theme and inventress of nature, her curb and her eternal law.
  • While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
  • I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
  • I have wasted my hours.
  • Many are they who have a taste and love for drawing, but no talent; and this will be discernible in boys who are not diligent and never finish their drawings with shading.
  • As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.
  • The spirit desires to remain with its body, because, without the organic instruments of that body, it can neither act, nor feel anything.
  • How many emperors and how many princes have lived and died and no record of them remains, and they only sought to gain dominions and riches in order that their fame might be ever-lasting.
  • Just as food eaten without appetite is a tedious nourishment, so does study without zeal damage the memory by not assimilating what it absorbs.
  • The Medici created and destroyed me.
  • Man and animals are in reality vehicles and conduits of food, tombs of animals, hostels of Death, coverings that consume, deriving life by the death of others.
  • Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.
  • There are four Powers: memory and intellect, desire and covetousness. The two first are mental and the others sensual. The three senses: sight, hearing and smell cannot well be prevented; touch and taste not at all.
  • The divisions of Perspective are 3, as used in drawing; of these, the first includes the diminution in size of opaque objects; the second treats of the diminution and loss of outline in such opaque objects; the third, of the diminution and loss of colour at long distances.
  • People talk to people who perceive nothing, who have open eyes and see nothing; they shall talk to them and receive no answer; they shall adore those who have ears and hear nothing; they shall burn lamps for those who do not see.
  • For, verily, great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you little know it, you will be able to love it only little or not at all.
  • The mind of the painter must resemble a mirror, which always takes the colour of the object it reflects and is completely occupied by the images of as many objects as are in front of it.
  • Life well spent is long.
  • In order to arrive at knowledge of the motions of birds in the air, it is first necessary to acquire knowledge of the winds, which we will prove by the motions of water in itself, and this knowledge will be a step enabling us to arrive at the knowledge of beings that fly between the air and the wind.
  • It seems that it had been destined before that I should occupy myself so thoroughly with the vulture, for it comes to my mind as a very early memory, when I was still in the cradle, a vulture came down to me, he opened my mouth with his tail and struck me a few times with his tail against my lips.
  • I have always felt it is my destiny to build a machine that would allow man to fly.
  • The painter who is familiar with the nature of the sinews, muscles, and tendons, will know very well, in giving movement to a limb, how many and which sinews cause it; and which muscle, by swelling, causes the contraction of that sinew; and which sinews, expanded into the thinnest cartilage, surround and support the said muscle.
  • The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.
  • Weight, force and casual impulse, together with resistance, are the four external powers in which all the visible actions of mortals have their being and their end.
  • Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.
  • The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.
  • I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.
  • Painting is concerned with all the 10 attributes of sight; which are: Darkness, Light, Solidity and Colour, Form and Position, Distance and Propinquity, Motion and Rest.
  • Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.
  • I have found that, in the composition of the human body as compared with the bodies of animals, the organs of sense are duller and coarser. Thus, it is composed of less ingenious instruments, and of spaces less capacious for receiving the faculties of sense.
  • To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another.
  • I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
  • He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.
  • Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.
  • It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
  • For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.




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Personality of Nelson Mandela				    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	5/5							(5)

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Personality of Nelson Mandela


“I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free. Free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies [corn] under the stars … It was only when I learnt that my boyhood freedom was an illusion … that I began to hunger for it.”


Nelson Mandela is seen as one of history’s most inspirational figures. He dedicated his life to speaking out for justice and changing inequalities of all kinds. He fought against the apartheid regime of South Africa and endured 27 years in prison. Mandela was South Africa’s first black president and is held up as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen.
He was a charismatic leader, a hero to his people, a man who gave up his freedom to fight for the freedom of others. Even after his death he remains a symbol of democracy, equality and peace. He was loved and admired throughout the world, and he never lost faith in his dreams and aspirations for his country despite all his hardships. He changed the course of history and even today inspires and empowers millions of people around the world. So, what was it that made this man stand out? What was it that made him give up on his personal life and stay true to his cause?


“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed. “

A brief look into Mandela’s personality traits.

At first glance, Nelson Mandela had all the personality traits of an effective leader. He was a visionary who fought for his beliefs. His fight against the racist system gave strength, inspired and motivated his people. Mary Benson, friend, confidante and biographer of Nelson Mandela, described him as “a born mass leader who could not help magnetizing people.” Mandela had excellent communication skills. Although his public speeches were very formal, he always enchanted his audience. He used to speak slowly, carefully selecting his every word. His commitment, charisma and humour were prominent in every speech. He had the ability to empower his audiences, fill them up with confidence and encouraged them to follow in his steps and fight dangerous battles. He articulated his vision for “a better future” and gained millions of followers.

To his followers, Nelson Mandela was a role model who motivated them into exceptional accomplishments. They shared common beliefs, emotions and practices. He was like a father to them. He had the power to unite people towards a common goal: resistance against racial segregation.

According to psychology, followers place more emphasis on the image of the leader than on any other characteristic. Mandela’s official biographer, Anthony Sampson, described Mandela as “master of imagery and performance”. Mandela always took extra care of his appearance in public and in press photographs. His correct manners and his modulated public speech helped him cultivate the image of the “African gentleman”. Because of that, Tom Lodge characterized Mandela as “one of the first media politicians […] embodying a glamour and a style that projected visually a brave new African world of modernity and freedom”. It seems that Mandela did not only cultivate an image, but he created a myth as well, both of which helped him achieve his goals. It leaves us wondering, was this a gift or skill? Well, it seems it was both.

Despite all that, his intelligence and his unique way of thinking were what turned Mandela into a successful leader. He faced reality with courage, no matter how hard it was and had the unique ability to adapt quickly and easily to everything new. In addition, he was an honest, dutiful, respectful and righteous man. He was known for his ability to find common ground with people of different mindsets.

Nelson Mandela strongly expressed his intellectual and revolutionary ideas. He pursued his beliefs to the very end of his life, and he shared his vision with the world. He was undoubtedly a man of genius, devotion, and determination. Considering knowledge as the greatest good, he never stopped learning. Even during his time in jail, he kept his mind busy searching for new ideas.

Mandela was an ambitious person with big dreams for his country. That ambition was his driving force and what made him take the lead and achieve success. This is what great leaders do. They do not only envisage a better future but also believe in its possible reality and take part in its creation. Till the end of his life, Mandela worked hard, with determination towards his lifetime goal to win freedom and equal human and democratic rights for his people. But he wasn’t just a great leader. He was a great human being whose mental toughness helped him endure great difficulties. He never gave up and always found a way to overcome even the most tremendous obstacles. Mandela was a living example of hope and bravery and inspires people to believe in what they are really capable of, if only they would truly believe it!

“By ancestry, I was born to rule”

The early life of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, in full Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, was born, into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in the village of Mvezo, in Eastern Cape, South Africa, on 18 July 1918. He had a poor but otherwise happy childhood.

His father Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa was headman of the Mvezo people and part of the Madiba clan – a subdivision of the Thembu tribe. He was in charge of his people and took every decision on his own, but always under the supervision of the British government authority. His every decision was carefully considered and made with the best interests of his people according to what was fair and reasonable. Even the name of his son “Rolihlahla” was thoughtfully considered. It is literally translated as “pulling the branch of a tree” or more colloquially “the troublemaker”. Was this a coincidence or could Mandela’s name have influenced his destiny? One thing is for sure, that no one could have predicted this boy’s future and that his name would match his actions later on.


“My mother was my first friend in the proper sense of the word.”


Nelson Mandela’s family

Nelson Mandela fatherMandela’s father served as a counsellor to tribal chiefs for several years. His strict attitude and discipline earned him the respect of the others. Mandela himself highly respected and admired his father as well. As a boy, he would take white ash and rub it into his hair in imitation of him. Not only that, but he also observed his every move, the way he talked in front of an audience, his facial expressions and his body movements. Despite the fact that he was illiterate, he was considered to be a great orator. Mandela looked up to his father and wished to be like him in the future. Who could have guessed that he would eventually surpass him!

Apart from the fatherly figure, the family environment can also shape a child’s personality. Mandela grew up in a big family. His father had four wives (Great Wife, Right Hand Wife and Mandela’s mother – Noqaphi Nosekeni, Left Hand Wife, Wife of the Iqadi) and a total of thirteen children – four boys and nine girls. Mandela was the youngest of his father’s sons and his mother’s first child. He grew up with love, respect and lots of care, elements crucial in a child’s upbringing and in the formation of one’s personality.


“Children are the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures.”


The difficulties of his childhood

A few years later, in 1926, when Mandela was still a little boy, his father was involved in a dispute that deprived him of his chieftainship. At the time Mandela was told that his father lost his job for standing up to the magistrate’s unreasonable demands. Nelson Mandela child diffiultiesApart from losing his job and his title, Mandela’s father also lost a big part of his fortune, since he was deprived of most of his herd and land, as well as his income.

As a result, they had to move to Qunu, a nearby village, and live there a humble life. There was great poverty in Qunu but despite the straitened circumstances Mandela had some very happy childhood memories there. One of the most serious problems was the lack of food. Mandela recalled only eating corn, sorghum, beans, and pumpkins whilst tea, coffee, and sugar were considered luxury. Education was also considered a privilege.


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


Mandela’s school years

Even though both his parents were illiterate, his father was dreaming of a better future for his son, and thus at the age of seven he decided to send Mandela to school. Because of their Christian beliefs, Mandela’s mother thought it would be better for him to attend a Christian school nearby.

Going to school was something very special and unique for a child back then. On the first day of school, Mandela’s father gave him his first pair of pants and some advice on good behaviour and let him go to school alone. There, one of the first things his teacher did, was to give each of the students an English name, in accordance with the custom of giving all schoolchildren “Christian” names. She told him that his new name from then onwards would be Nelson. Primary lesson at school was the English language, whilst British ideas and British culture played a major role in the school’s educational system.

From a young age Mandela’s personality stand out. All of his teachers were very proud of him. He was a diligent student, he always followed his teacher’s instructions, he had an excellent behaviour, and he was always one of the best students in the class. He tried his best to earn a better life for himself and his family.

“Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla.”


 The death of his father

Two years after his first day at school, when Mandela was nine years old, his life turned upside down once again. One night, he went home to find his father lying in the hut, feeling weak and having severe pain in his chest. Mandela presumed he had a lung disease, although it was never diagnosed. His father remained in the hut for several days only getting worse. He was neither moving nor talking. Mandela had a bad feeling and thus he never left his father’s side. One day, he hugged his mother and promised her that he would take his father’s place and that he would protect her no matter what. A few days later, after fulfilling his last wish to smoke his pipe, Mandela’s father passed away.

After the death of his father, Mandela’s life drastically changed. Undoubtedly, the sudden death of a parent is certainly among the most difficult situations an adult – as well as a child – may ever face. Children however are sometimes dealing better with death than adults. They understand that death is permanent and final and that it cannot be reversed, but they lack the necessary life experience to realize that death is inevitable for all living things, themselves included. So, when that time comes, the process of grieving after a loss varies from child to child.

Mandela felt deep sorrow from losing his father. He did not only lose a parent, but also a person who he trusted and admired more than anyone on this world, his mentor and his role model in life. Even so, he tried to conceal his sorrow in order to protect his mother and siblings. He showed incredible inner strength and courage for such a young boy. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the death of his father didn’t leave a scar on his soul.

On the contrary. This tragic event of his life changed him and made him realize that he had to follow his father’s advice and finish off the work he started, choosing to take a road against submission and injustice.

“Friendship and support from friends is something which is a source of tremendous inspiration always and to everyone.”


 Mandela’s new life

Soon after his father’s death Mandela’s life changed drastically. His mother was unable to provide for him on her own and took the decision to send Mandela away from the Qunu village. Her decision shocked Mandela deeply, but he knew that it was for his own good. She wanted to give him a chance to live a better future. It wasn’t an easy decision. Soon after the loss of her husband she had to let go of her son as well. Mandela on the other side had never lived outside the village and away from his tribe. He felt that he was abandoning everything he loved, his home, his friends and family. But he had no other choice.

Nelson Mandela's motherHis mother took him to the “Great Place” palace at Mqhekezweni, the royal residence of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the regent of the Thembu people, who offered to become Mandela’s guardian. Seeing the wealth and the beauty of his new home, he realised that a new life was starting for him. As the days were passing by, he was missing his mother and his life in Qunu, but he was having a great time in the Great Place.

There, at his new school he studied English, Xhosa, history, and geography and he was a very good and hardworking student. He was also getting along with the regent’s children, Justice and Nomafu, very well. All three of them were treated the same and felt like siblings. Moreover, Mandela looked up to Justice, and the two boys quickly became best friends. Justice had become quite a hero in Mandela’s eyes.

“Democracy and human rights are inseparable.”


The tribal meetings and consultations

What contributed greatly to Mandela’s later notions of leadership were the tribal meetings that were regularly called at the Great Place. They were discussing national matters such as the droughts, new laws and policies. He was observing the language used by the speakers, all their moves, expressions and arguments. Soon he distinguished among many different techniques that people used to persuade their audience with. He also realized that despite the hierarchy everyone was welcomed to attend the meetings, speak and express opinion on the matters freely.

The regent would speak last, and he would sum up the discussion so far. He wouldn’t force his decisions on people who disagreed. On the contrary, in case of disagreement, they held another meeting some other time. Later in his life, Mandela followed the same principles he first saw demonstrated by the regent at the Great Place and this is maybe what distinguished him as a leader.

“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So, it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.”

Mandela’s secondary education in Clarkebury

Growing up, Mandela’s destiny was to become councillor to the Thembu royal house and not a worker at the gold mines like most at the time. To do so, he had to acquire the necessary education. Thus, in 1933, he set off to Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo, a Western-style institution and the largest school for black Africans in Thembuland, where he began his secondary education.

Nelson Mandela at UniversityIn Clarkebury everyone was treated the same: “I had to make my way on the basis of my ability, not my heritage” he said. Apart from studying, Mandela often participated in sports and games and socialized with other students. He also became best friends with a girl for the first time in his life – a girl named Mathona, who he despised at first.

Through lots of hard work and determination he completed his Junior Certificate in only two years instead of the usual three. And that because he never forgot his original goal, to gather various experiences, learn new things and become more mature and wiser like a king’s councillor should be.


“I have always believed that sport is a right, not a privilege.”

Healdtown College

Two years later, in 1937, when Mandela was nineteen years old, he was sent to Healdtown, a Wesleyan College in Fort Beaufort, the usual college for Thembu royalty. Justice was already a student there. Ιn Healdtown there were studying more than a thousand students of both sexes from all over the country. There, Mandela made new friends from other tribes for the first time and found new hobbies: long-distance running and boxing. He was also appointed a prefect and had many responsibilities and chores throughout the day.


“Thinking is one of the most important weapons in dealing with problems.”


Fort Hare University

In 1939, when Mandela was twenty-one years old, he got accepted in the University College of Fort Hare. Fort Hare was an elite Institution with only one hundred fifty students and Mandela felt really lucky and proud to be there, whilst Justice had remained at Healdtown for he wasn’t a very diligent student.

Nelson Mandela University lifeIn his first year, he studied English, anthropology, politics, native administration, and Roman Dutch law. He also attended interpreting courses which he loved the most and dreamt of becoming an interpreter in the magistrate’s office or a clerk in the Native Affairs Department. In his free time, he kept active and did lots of sports. He liked playing soccer and cross-country running the most. He also joined the drama club and took ballroom dancing lessons. Moreover, he became a member of the Students Christian Association and taught the Bible on Sundays in neighbouring villages.

Fort Hare University was a dream come true for Mandela. Being able to get a bachelor’s degree at the time was a major opportunity. He thought that he would be able to help his mother and sisters live a better life in Qunu. He wanted to provide them with the life they had lost when his father died.

“There are few misfortunes in this world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill.”


Mandela’s first conflict with authority

In 1940 Mandela got suspended from the university. During his second year he got involved in the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) boycott against the bad quality of food. Unless the authorities accepted their demands, they wouldn’t give up on their goal.

Mandela was called in to see the principal, who asked him to reconsider his actions or else he would be expelled from Fort Hare. Mandela faced a huge dilemma that day. “I found it difficult to swallow the idea that I would sacrifice what I regarded as my obligation to the students for my own selfish interests” he said. As much as he wanted to see his dream come true, at the end of the year Mandela left Fort Hare without taking a degree. Just like his father, he was determined to stand by his principles at any cost and refused to bend to authority. It is obvious that this was a strong ­– perhaps inherited – and recurring trait of his personality as we will see later on.


“You are responsible for your own future, and with hard work you can accomplish anything and make your dreams come true.”


A fresh start in Johannesburg

Mandela had no other choice than to return to Mqhekezweni and live once again in the Great Place with the regent’s family and Justice, who had long returned back home. However, the regent’s decision to arrange marriages for both of them shortly after his return, shocked them both. If he chose to disobey the regent, Mandela knew he could no longer remain under his roof and guidance. Justice was of the same mind, and so they decided that running away together was their only option. Inevitably, the two young men set off to Johannesburg.Nelson Mandela youth

The fact that Mandela defied the regent’s wishes had a pinch of irony in it. “It was the regent himself who was indirectly to blame for this, for it was the education he had afforded me that had caused me to reject such traditional customs. […] I was a romantic, and I was not prepared to have anyone, even the regent, select a bride for me” Mandela said. A year later in 1941 and a few months before his death, the regent visited Mandela in Johannesburg and forgave him for his actions.

Johannesburg in those days was rapidly growing and life there wasn’t easy, mostly because of the racism and the poverty. The demand for labour was high as more and more Africans from the countryside were seeking work there. In the meantime, Mandela’s dream had changed, and he envisioned himself as an attorney. At first, he worked as a security guard for Crown Mines but later he got a job as a clerk in a law office. At the same time, he decided to complete his bachelor through the University of South Africa (UNISA), that offered credits and degrees by correspondence. He got his degree at the end of 1942. Later on, he also enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand, or else “Wits”, for a Bachelor of Laws degree. He was the only African student in the law faculty. He met new people and made new friends who had fresh ideas and revolutionary political beliefs, loved politic and wanted to make a difference even if they had to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the oppressed.

“Mass action is a peaceful form of channeling the anger of the people.”


Mandela’s first steps into politics

Nelson Mandela in politicsDuring his time at Wits, Nelson Mandela became increasingly aware of the racial inequality and injustice faced by non-white people. In 1943, he decided to join the African National Congress ANC and actively take part in the struggle against apartheid. At first, Mandela was simply attending its meetings but later he joined ANC in a bus boycott and protested against the bus ticket’s rising price with great success, what got him more involved. In 1944, along with other party members they formed the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Its primary purpose was to give direction to the ANC in its quest for political freedom. Thanks to his commitment to the cause Mandela rose rapidly through the ranks of the ANC.


“To be in love is an experience that every man must go through”


Mandela’s first marriage

In 1946, Mandela met and quickly fell in love with Evelyn Mase. They got married within a few months of their first date. Soon after their marriage, they got a son Madiba “Thembi” Thembekile and a year later a daughter Makaziwe, who died aged just nine months. This was a huge loss for Mandela and the worst time of his life.

It is often said that there is no greater loss than the loss of a child. It feels completely unnatural for a child to die before his or her parents and there is nothing one can say or do to lessen the pain of the parents at the time. A piece of themselves is lost forever and only time can heal the pain.

After the death of his daughter, Mandela tried to keep his mind constantly busy. He worked long hours. He departed early every morning, only to return home late at night, and he had no time for his family and no personal life at all. His career and his political action seemed to be more important.


“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”


The start of a long fight

The general election of May 1948 in South Africa brought the National Party to power. The government immediately began enforcing strict and more systematic policies of racial segregation and developed a political and social system known as “apartheid”. Mandela and ANC wanted to encourage serious action against apartheid and a non-violent resistance through boycotts, strikes and demonstrations.

A few years later, in 1952 Mandela and his friend Oliver Tambo opened a law office in Johannesburg called “Mandela and Tambo”. It was one of South Africa’s first black-owned and operated law firms aiming to defend Africans’ rights in court. “For Africans, we were the firm of first choice and last resort. To reach our offices each morning, we had to move through a crowd of people in the hallways, on the stairs, and in our small waiting room,” Mandela said. After all, offering help to those in need was the reason Mandela became a lawyer.

In the meantime, Mandela organized and took part in major campaigns against the apartheid, gave significant speeches and got a couple of times arrested. He soon drew the government’s attention. They considered Mandela to be a threat and had to take actions against him. They forbid him to travel outside of Johannesburg as well as attend any meetings or talk to more than one person at a time. He couldn’t even attend his son’s birthday party for that reason! A nine-month prison sentence was suspended because of a fair-minded and reasonable judge who accepted that the ANC was committed to peaceful and non-violent action.

In 1956, Mandela and 155 more people were arrested and accused of high treason and of an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government. They were kept in prison for two weeks but soon freed on bail. The trial itself lasted for five years till 1961. Due to insufficient evidence they were found not guilty.

“The beauty of a woman lies as much in her face as in her body.”


Mandela’s divorce and second marriage

In 1950, Mandela and Evelyn had their second son, Makgatho. However, Mandela’s hard working schedule and his devotion to politics increasingly took him away from home. In 1954 the birth of Mandela’s second daughter, named Makaziwe, in honour of their first baby girl, failed to save their marriage. In 1956 when Mandela got out of prison, Evelyn had already moved out. They took divorce the next year.

In 1957 Mandela met a woman sixteen years younger than him, Winnie Madikizela, a medical social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg. They got married in 1958, but four months later the ANC got banned and Mandela got once again imprisoned. In the same year and while pregnant, Winnie took part in several protests and got arrested. Soon after her release she gave birth to their daughter Zenani, on February 4, 1959. A year later they had their second daughter, Zindziswa (Zindzi).


“Men must follow the dictates of their conscience irrespective of the consequences which might overtake them for it.”


State of Emergency

On April 6, 1959, PAC (Pan Africans Congress) a new organization was founded. All they wished for was a “Government of the Africans, by the Africans and for the Africans”, and thus they organized many campaigns and protests. However, on 21 March 1960, in Sharpeville, what started as a peaceful march took a sudden turn; 69 of the protestants were killed and many more were injured when the police suddenly opened fire against them. This resulted in many strikes all around the country and subsequently the government declared a State of Emergency. Both the ANC and the PAC were banned and declared illegal organizations. Mandela along with many other party members were arrested under the State of Emergency and taken to prison, where they were all mistreated.

The Emergency was lifted five months later, and Mandela was let go. The event however destroyed his carrier as a lawyer and ANC. Yet, he couldn’t stay idle. He took part in secret meetings of the ANC and went underground organizing strikes. Mandela realised that the non-violent tactics and the peaceful protests of ANC so far had failed them. His actions during those years earned him the nickname “The Black Pimpernel” and another warrant for his arrest, but he chose to fight than surrender; “I have chosen this course which is more difficult, and which entails more risk and hardship than sitting in gaol. I have had to separate myself from my dear wife and children, from my mother and sisters to live as an outlaw in my own land. I have had to close my business, to abandon my profession, and live in poverty, as many of my people are doing […] For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days,” he wrote in a letter he released to the press at the time, whilst he also held secret meetings with reporters and gave his first TV interview.

Mandela knew what he wanted from the very start. He would not hesitate, not even for a single moment, to give his own life for the freedom of his country. His determination and resilience were remarkable and inspiring. It was hard for him to imagine how one could go against, shoot and kill innocent, unarmed people that all they wanted was a chance for a better life.

“If the criticism is valid, it must be made.”


A lonely fighter

Nelson Mandela a lonely fighterThe days when Mandela was an innocent child playing in the fields of his village were long gone. In 1961, Mandela wasn’t just a country boy anymore. He was an underground fugitive and one of the most wanted men in South Africa. What made him stand out and separated him from the other leaders was that he wasn’t in the spotlight. Mandela hid from the world and was acting from the shadows mostly during night hours. He refused to play by the government’s rules and played with fire instead. But he couldn’t care less.

Despite his open and friendly personality Mandela loved solitude. Being alone enabled him to move undisturbed, carefully calculate his next moves and think his plans throughout without unnecessary interferences. On the other hand, he was unable to keep a healthy relationship with his family once again. He was away from his wife and children and rarely saw them in fear he would get caught. Yet Winnie was a person with great understanding and patience.


“Let us keep our arms locked together so that we form a solid phalanx against racism.”


The beginning of the armed struggle

Up until this point ANC was against using or advocating violence during their protests, but in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre ANC decided that it could no longer remain an organization of passive resistance and that they should change their tactics. Thus, they formed an armed wing named uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK for short) to fight against apartheid.

Mandela was a man with an enquiring mind and a desire to learn and make a difference. He read many books about war strategy and fights of the past as well as African history and was ready to start a real revolution. At the time he sought shelter at Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia, in northern Johannesburg under the alias of David Motsamayi posing as a caretaker. The farm was also used as hideout for many other anti-apartheid activists.

On 16 December 1961, on the annual national holiday “Day of the Vow” MK launched its armed struggle. They committed several acts of sabotage that continued throughout the year. They carried out numerous bombings mainly against government structures such as military installations, power plants, and transport links in various cities such as in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Durban and during night hours, when civilians were not present to ensure minimum casualties.

“Mass action is a peaceful form of channeling the anger of the people.”


Mandela’s African journey and arrest

In 1962, Mandela decided to leave South Africa in secret and seek political and economic support, military training, as well as boost MK’s reputation in other countries. He pursued his cause throughout Africa and travelled among others to Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Senegal. Later on, he travelled to London as well. Upon his return to South Africa on 5 August 1962, Mandela was however arrested and accused of inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country illegally. On November 7, he was sentenced to five years in prison.


“I realized that they could take it all except my mind and heart. And I just made a decision not to give them away.”


Rivonia trial and imprisonment

A year later in 1963, while Mandela was serving his five-year sentence in Johannesburg’s Fort prison, the police arrested several MK leaders in a raid on Liliesleaf Farm that served as their hideout and discovered many incriminating documents as well some of which mentioned Mandela. All of them including Mandela were prosecuted in the Rivonia Trial –named after the suburb where the farm was located – and charged of sabotage and conspiracy. The alleged offences were punishable by death but those who were convicted, were sentenced to life imprisonment instead.

Mandela was already gaining popularity and had become a symbol of justice. The trial itself gained international attention and is considered to be one of the most important events in the history of South Africa. Mandela gave a historic three-hour speech from the dock, in which he explained and justified their actions. “Your Worship, I hate racial discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all my life, I fight it now, and I will do so until the end of my days. I detest most intensely the set up that surrounds me here. It makes me feel that I am a black man in a white man’s court. This should not be” he said.

Mandela later made it clear that he was ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of his country; “I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people live together in harmony and equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve but if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela was taken from the courthouse directly to Pretoria Local Prison.

“After one has been in prison, it is the small things that one appreciates: being able to take a walk whenever one wants, going into a shop and buying a newspaper, speaking or choosing to remain silent. The simple act of being able to control one’s person.”


The life of a prisoner

A life behind bars isn’t easy and no one knows what it’s like unless they go through it themselves. Prisoners are confined in a certain environment where they have to adapt quickly if they want to survive. They have no freedom and no identity and as a result prison affects every aspect of one’s life. It not only has an impact on one’s mental well-being but over time also shift’s one’s personality, leading the prisoner toward becoming a different person, especially after long-term imprisonment.

Nelson Mandela prisoner Number 46664Prisoners are made to wear the same cloths as everybody else, eat the same food every day and follow the exact same schedule. Friendships in prison are a matter of controversy as well. Being very close with someone isn’t advisable. All contacts are strictly monitored and can turn out dangerous as well.

Life after prison isn’t by any means easer. Getting out of jail isn’t the end of it for most people. Starting a new life after prison from absolute scratch seems hard, and the reintegration of prisoners into society is a struggle. The deprivation of liberty and the lack of privacy scar them for life.

Mandela wasn’t like the rest of the prisoners. Even in jail he tried to make a difference. He was scared for sure but knew very well how to hide his emotions and over time he got tougher. He chose to be put in isolation than wear short trousers and eat stiff and cold food, where he could eat and wear whatever he wanted. Mandela spent a couple of weeks there completely alone, but soon he realized that nothing is more important than human companionship, and he gave in.


“The suffering of the people of any single country affects all of us no matter where we find ourselves.”


The Robben Island prison

After a while Mandela and the other convicted leaders were transferred from Pretoria to the Prison on Robben Island. Mandela was 46 years old at the time and would remain in the Robben Island prison for 18 years until his next transfer.Nelson Mandela cell at Robin Island prison

There were no black guards and no white prisoners in Robben Island prison. The guards used threats and intimidation to enforce the regulations but soon Mandela realized that they had to be friendly with them in order to earn their favour. Hostility wasn’t serving anyone.

What saddened Mandela the most was that the rules regarding correspondence were very strict. Mandela, as a D Group prisoner, was allowed only one visitor, and to write and receive only one letter every six months with word restriction. All letters were censored by the guards. But that wasn’t the worse; “In prison, the only thing worse than bad news about one’s family is no news at all. It is always harder to cope with the disasters and tragedies one imagines than with the reality, however grim or disagreeable. A letter with ill tidings was always preferable to no letter at all,” Mandela said.

Racism and repression were the same inside and out of prison. The discrimination in diet was also clear, Coloureds and Indians received better food than Africans. Furthermore, Africans were given to wear short trousers once again. But Mandela didn’t give up the fight so easily. He tried his best every day to keep his dignity intact. He kept a positive attitude, never letting himself fall in despair. Mandela believed in humanity and looked forward to a better future.

On a more positive note, prisoners were allowed to study and thus at nights Mandela worked on his Bachelor of Laws degree which he was obtaining from the University of London through correspondence. Prisoners were allowed books but no newspapers by any means making the latter “more valuable to political prisoners than gold or diamonds”. The possession of a newspaper was punishable.

As the years were passing by, prison conditions improved, and the prisoners were treated better. African prisoners were given to wear trousers, they were allowed to play games at the weekends and attend religious services. From 1967 onwards, when Mandela became an A Class prisoner, he was allowed more visits and letters.


“The advantage of prison life is that you can sit and think and see yourself and your work from a distance”


The daily prison schedule in Robben Island

Prisoners followed a daily schedule and every single day was exactly the same; time was passing by slowly. Just a few days in prison seemed like a decade. The Rivonia Trial prisoners were spending their days hammering rocks into gravel until they were sent to work in a lime quarry in 1965. The schedule was as follows:

05:30 – Wake-up

06:45 – Cleaning and tiding up the cells

07:00 – Breakfast

07:45 – Inspection

08:00 – Work

12:00 – Lunchbreak

12:45 – Resume work

16:00 – Inspection

16:10 – Shower

16:30 – Supper

17:15 – Free time

20:00 – Sleep


“The wounds that cannot be seen are more painful than those that can be treated by a doctor.”


Coping with family separation and loss

Mandela missed his family the most. Winnie wasn’t able to visit him regularly, for she was being imprisoned a couple of times for political activity herself. Mandela was constantly worried about her and the thought of her being in prison too was agonizing. The few letters they send to each other weren’t enough to fill the emptiness in his heart and words couldn’t express what he felt.

Nelson Mandela at PrisonIn 1968, Mandela’s mother accompanied by his son Makgatho, his daughter Makaziwe, and his sister Mabel visited him in Robben Island. He hadn’t seen his children in years due to strict prison regulations that didn’t allow children between the ages of two and sixteen to visit a prisoner. He was deeply shocked to see how time had changed them, especially his mother who looked old and worn. His fear that this would be the last time he saw her came true as she died of a heart attack a few weeks later. His request to attend her funeral was turned down. Mandela felt great sorrow along with some guilt; “A mother’s death causes a man to look back on and evaluate his own life. Her difficulties, her poverty, made me question once again whether I had taken the right path,” he said.

A year later in 1969, Mandela experienced another insufferable loss. His first and oldest son, Thembi, had been killed in a motorcar accident at 25. He left a wife and two small children behind. The news struck Mandela hard. He was forbidden from attending his funeral as well and sat powerless grieving for days in his cell.

In 1975, Zindzi turned fifteen. Having her documents modified by her mother, she was able to visit her father a year sooner than allowed. She only knew him through photographs, but it turned out to be a very touching moment for both of them.


“To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”


Thoughts of escape

In 1969, the Bureau of State Security, South Africa’s secret intelligence agency was plotting Mandela’s death. The plan was to shoot him dead during an escape attempt. They sent a young guard to persuade Mandela to escape. His plan seemed far-fetched and unreliable and Mandela was wise enough not to trust him. Why would a guard risk his life to free a prisoner after all?

But this wasn’t the only scheme against him. Mandela was many times tempted to escape, but he never went through with the plans at the end, either because he realized it was an ambush or he thought of the consequences. He would have to live with the fear of being traced and caught again, and he knew they would never stop looking for him.


“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires”

The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

In 1974, on Mandela’s 57th birthday, his comrades suggested he should secretly write and publish a book with his memoirs and thoughts as a reminder to people of what they had fought so far and give them courage and strength to keep fighting. Mandela decided to go through with the idea and started writing the same night. He was sleeping during the day and writing at night making the guards suspicious.

It turned out to be a five-hundred-page manuscript of which they also made a copy for safety. One was kept in the cells and the other was buried in the courtyard’s garden. The buried manuscript was discovered when a wall was built at the site. Mandela was accused of abusing his study privileges in order to write the illegal manuscript and his study privileges were being suspended for four years.

However, his efforts did not go in vain as they managed to smuggle the copy in London in 1976. Mandela resumed the book after his release in 1990. The manuscript constitutes the core of his autobiography under the title “Long Walk to Freedom” published in 1994.

“When we read, we are able to travel to many places, meet many people and understand the world”


The last years in Robben Island

At last, in 1977, after many strikes and demands by the prisoners, the authorities put an end to manual labour, and let prisoners spend their days in their sections. Mandela spend his free time gardening and playing tennis in the courtyard. He also began to exercise again and read books. He was reading books mostly about South Africa or by South African writers, all the unbanned novels of Nadine Gordimer, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and War and Peace by Tolstoy. The authorities also allowed prisoners to watch selected films and documentaries once a week such as “The Mark of Zorro”, “The Ten Commandments”, “The King and I” and “Cleopatra”. Finally, in 1980, A-Group prisoners were allowed to buy one English-language and one Afrikaans newspaper a day.


“To overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of every free man”


Mandela’s transfer to Pollsmoor prison

Without any previous notice, on 31 March 1982 Mandela and his comrades were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, in Tokai, Cape Town.  Authorities wanted to isolate them and lessen their influence on younger activists. Change was always hard for Mandela. Having lived for 18 whole years on Robben Island, he got used to it. The unknown and the lack of stability frightened him.

The Pollsmoor prison was according to Mandela “a world of concrete” but not only were the facilities and food much better but also the new prison allowed contact visits between inmates and their family members. After all these years Mandela was finally able to hug and kiss his wife. “It had been twenty-one years since I had even touched my wife’s hand,” he said.

Outside of prison the political climate was tense, and violence was escalating across the country. On January 31, 1985 the state president Pieter Willem Botha offered Mandela his freedom under the condition that he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political instrument,” expecting that Mandela would betray his people and abandon his fight. On 10 February 1985 Mandela’s daughter Zinzi read a statement on his behalf at a rally in Soweto: “I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.” With those words Mandela rejected yet another offer of conditional release. In the past he was offered his freedom as long as he accepted to confine himself to Transkei.

For the second time in history the South African government declared a nationwide State of Emergency on 12 June 1986. Thousands of people were arrested. A month later USA approved the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, a law which imposed sanctions against South Africa and requested the end of apartheid.

In the same year Mandela was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate gland and underwent surgery. After his recovery he was taken to a new cell in a completely different wing away from his comrades. It was perhaps an attempt to isolate him and make him give in.

“In my country we go to prison first and then become President.”


Victor Verster Prison and release

In 1987, suffering from a bad cough and a general weakness, Mandela was taken to the hospital in Cape Town, where they found water in his lungs. He was operated and diagnosed with tuberculosis, probably due to the dampness of his cell. Thus, after many complaints, in December 1988, Mandela was moved to his “last home before becoming a free man”, to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl in order to recover. Mandela was 70 years old at the time, and he spent there the last 14 months of his 25 years of captivity. He was not given a cell but a large warder’s house in the grounds of the prison instead, with a big garden, a swimming pool as well as a personal chef. Mandela said that he had the illusion of freedom. He could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, as if he were a free man. Among other activities, Mandela spent his time to complete his LLB degree.

It’s strange how things sometimes turn out. On 18 January 1989, president Botha suffered a mild stroke. He resigned and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk had a few meetings with Mandela to discuss the situation. He agreed with Mandela to unban the ANC and all other banned political organizations­ (including the armed wing of the ANC), lift the country’s State of Emergency, release all political prisoners, and allow the exiles to return. His friends were the first to be released but Mandela knew his own freedom wasn’t far away.

Finally, the most awaited day had come! On 11 February 1990, after 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was unconditionally released and walked out of the Victor Verster prison as a free man, holding Winnie’s hand in front of a large crowd, photographers and reporters. Mandela wasn’t prepared for such a scene, nonetheless he felt great excitement; “I felt — even at the age of seventy-one — that my life was beginning anew. My ten thousand days of imprisonment were over,” he said.

Right after his release Mandela was driven to Cape Town’s City Hall and gave a speech from the balcony. The crowd was huge and cheering. Mandela expressed his hopes for reconciliation but declared that the ANC’s armed struggle wasn’t over. They were close to their goal but there were still many things to negotiate with the government. Two days later Mandela gave a second speech to a crowd of 120,000 people at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.


“Life is like a big wheel: the one who’s at the top, tomorrow is at the bottom.”


Path to presidency and the end of apartheid

During the following years Mandela travelled to Africa, Europe and America in order to gather political support, meet world leaders – such as François Mitterrand, Brian Mulroney, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush – and draw attention to his cause. In the meantime, on 5 July 1991, at the ANC’s national conference in Durban Mandela was elected ANC President, replacing Oliver Tambo.Nelson Mandela African President

On 10 December 1993, Mandela was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway. “A man does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards, but when I was notified that I had won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Mr. de Klerk, I was deeply moved. […] To make peace with an enemy one must work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes one’s partner” Mandela said.

After four long years of negotiations, April 27, 1994 was set as the date when South Africa’s first national, non-racial, democratic, one-person-one-vote election would take place. According to the polls, ANC held a clear advantage over its rivals, but Mandela never took victory for granted. He knew very well that his major opponent had more experience in these matters.  ANC’s campaign slogan was “A Better Life for All”, but Mandela never lied during his campaign: “Life will not change dramatically, except that you will have increased yourself-esteem and become a citizen in your own land. […] if you want better things, you must work hard. We cannot do it all for you; you must do it yourselves.” And so, April 27th or else “Freedom Day” became an annual celebration that commemorates the day in 1994 when the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation came to an end as a result of years of struggle and sacrifice. The black majority ­was able to go to the polls and elect their own leader. That day, at Inanda, Durban, Mandela voted for the first time in his life too and he voted for himself for president. The ANC won these first historic elections with a vast majority (62.6%) and was qualified for 252 of 400 seats in the national assembly.

“Poverty is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”


Mandela’s presidential years

Nelson Mandela PresidentA few days after South Africa’s first national democratic elections, on May 10, 1994, Mandela’s inauguration took place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria replacing F.W. de Klerk. The event was witnessed by over one hundred thousand people on site, and millions of others around the world. At the age of 75 Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. “We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination. Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another,” Mandela declared in his inaugural address.

Mandela tried to stay true to his word. After all, this wasn’t just a promise to his voters but to himself as well. It was time to tread a new path and he had to lead the way. Through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), ANC tried to deal with the country’s severe social and economic problems and focused on people’s most immediate needs. RDP’s general goal was to boost the collapsing economy and alleviate poverty. They dealt with issues of major importance such as proper housing and land reform, nutrition, access to clean water, electrification, transportation, telecommunication, healthcare and children vaccination, unemployment and public works. Also, one of the primary tasks of Mandela’s presidency was national reconciliation. He wanted to reassure South Africa’s white minority that they were protected and represented.Nelson Mandela a Leader-President

In February 1996 the new South African government took things a step further establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Its purpose was to investigate crimes and uncover the truth about human rights violations that were committed during the period of apartheid (from 1960 to 1994) by both the apartheid state and the ANC. The hearings lasted for about two years dealing with cases of tortures, bombings, abductions and assassinations. Information were gathered from victims, witnesses and offenders, and the Commission issued a final report. No individuals were prosecuted for crimes of the past. According to Mandela the commission did an excellent work and helped the country “move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future.”

With age being a strong factor, in December 1997 at the party’s conference, Mandela stepped down as ANC President, and in March 1999, after just one term as President, he closed the book on his presidency with a farewell speech to the Parliament. By the 1999 election, ANC had achieved many of its goals; millions of people were connected to the electricity grid and to telephone lines, hundreds of houses were constructed, and even more households got access to clean drinking water, millions of children were brought into the education system, and a significant number of hospitals were constructed.

“I am not nervous of love for love is very inspiring”


Mandela’s 2nd divorce and 3rd marriage

In the midst of political turbulence and social change, Mandela had little time for his personal life and thus his marriage with Winnie suffered. Winnie had distanced herself from him and rumour has it she had an affair. Mandela utterly disappointed in her described that time as “the loneliest period of his life.” He announced their separation in 1992, and they divorced four years later.

After so many years without affection, Mandela didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in loneliness. And so, when Mandela met Graça Machel – a woman 27 years younger than him and widow of former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel – he envisioned a future with her. The couple decided to get married in 1998, on Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday. “Late in life, I am blooming like a flower because of the love and support she has given me,” Mandela told reporters.


“I have retired, but if there’s anything that would kill me it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do.”

Mandela’s retirement

Despite his retirement, Mandela didn’t give up completely on his people. For several years after his retirement from active politics, he got engaged in several philanthropic activities. He continued his contribution to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) which he set up in 1995, aiming to help hungry, abused and homeless children. In 1999 he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), a non-profit organization focused on continuing Mandela’s legacy for equality, justice and peace. Last but not least, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation offers scholarships to African students who dream of using knowledge to change the world.

In July 2001, aged 83, Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent a seven-week radiotherapy course as treatment. The cancer wasn’t of a high grade and didn’t require chemotherapy or surgery. However, as Mandela grew older and his health declined with age, he wished to stay away from public life as well and enjoy a quiet life with his large family (he had 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren). Yet the requests for public appearances and interviews were too many.  “I do not intend to hide away totally from the public, but hence forth I want to be in the position of calling you to ask whether I would be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events. The appeal therefore is: don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he said politely.

But life is full of unexpected turns and his happiness was shadowed by the pain of losing another son. On 6 January 2005, his eldest son Makgatho died of AIDS. AIDS epidemic posed a serious threat to Africa and the infection rate grew rapidly. At a time when taboos still surrounded AIDS, Mandela socked the world by announcing the cause of his son’s death. “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like tuberculosis, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary,” Mandela said at his son’s funeral. Following the tragic event Mandela became an active AIDS campaigner. He also started a charity for HIV awareness and prevention, called 46664, named after the prison number assigned to him in Robben Island prison.


“Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”


Nelson Mandela’s death

Nelson Mandela's deathDuring his last years of life Mandela battled with health issues that led to numerous hospitalizations. In February 2011, at the age of 92, Mandela was hospitalized with a respiratory infection and was released in a stable condition. A year later in 2012 he was re-admitted shortly for a lung infection. In the following years his lung infection took a turn for the worse and in June 2013, he was admitted to the hospital in serious condition once again. Although his condition remained unstable, he was discharged. Unfortunately, the illness advanced and on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95, Mandela passed away at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg.Nelson Mandela's wifes

President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s death on television, “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” he said, and the South African government declared a 10-day national mourning as a mark of respect. From 11 to 13 December Mandela’s body laid in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and two days later on 15 December 2013 a state funeral was held in Qunu. More than 80 representatives of foreign states travelled to South Africa to pay their respects. Nelson Mandela’s death had shaken South Africa to the core and the whole nation mourned for him, for they felt they had lost their hero.


“It becomes important, the older you get, to return to places where you have wonderful recollections.”


What made Mandela a successful leader

Nelson Mandela LeaderMandela succeeded because of his strong will. Throughout his life he proved that only sky is the limit. Nothing is impossible as long as we never give up. He never gave up on justice, his beliefs, his hope for equal rights and his desire for freedom. He wasn’t vindictive and despite the horrors he had to face he didn’t believe in the eye for an eye justice. It’s good to always remember his words: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Only few will understand in depth his complex personality. He found the inner strength to fight his own battles. He came to this world to make a difference and hold his head up high. Mandela made history, he left his mark and touched people’s lives. He lived a unique life and took hard decisions. He was prepared to sacrifice his life for the freedom of his country, a sacrifice that very few would make.

Mandela was a remarkable man, and he never stopped trying for the best, because, like he said: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” The road to freedom was a difficult one, and Mandela opened the door to a better future, but a joint effort is required to keep it on the right track, and according to Mandela’s favourite quote “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”


Quotes of Nelson Mandela

Get inspired from Nelson Mandela’s most important Quotes:

Nelson Mandela Quotes Collection  (Phrases)

See the best collection of Nelson Mandela’s Quotes by clicking on this link:

Nelson Mandela Quotes     (Pictures)

This was an analysis of Nelson Mandela’s personality and life. If you want to find out which personality you belong to or what kind of Motto suits you, click on the link below:

Motto Personality Test by Motto Cosmos

Tributes, honours and awards

Mandela received more than 250 awards, honours, honorary degrees from universities and other recognitions. Some of the most important ones are listed below:

1988 – Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

1991 – Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize

1993 – Nobel Peace Prize

1993 – Philadelphia Liberty Medal

1994 – Anne Frank Medal

1994 – Olympic Gold Order

1994 – The Hunger Project’s 8th annual Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger

1996 – Freedom of the City of London

2001 – International Gandhi Peace Prize

2002 – Presidential Medal of Freedom

2006 – Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award

2009 – The United Nations General Assembly declared 18 July to be “Nelson Mandela International Day” or else “Mandela Day”


Nelson Mandela Books

Nelson Mandela has written numerous books, mostly autobiographical ones that provide great insight into his life and help us understand better the horror of apartheid and the struggle for freedom. Others include speeches, letters and quotes of him and address readers of all ages. Some of them are:

1970 – Nelson Mandela: I Am Prepared to Die

1973 – No Easy Walk to Freedom

1978 – The Struggle is My Life

1980 – In His Own Words

1990 – Nelson Mandela Speeches, 1990: Intensify the Struggle to Abolish Apartheid

1991 – How Far We Slaves Have Come! South Africa and Cuba in Today’s World

1993 – Nelson Mandela Speaks: Forging a Democratic, Non-racial South Africa

1994 – Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

1996 – Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography

1998 – The Essential Nelson Mandela

2000 – Words of Wisdom: Selected Quotes

2001 – Nelson Mandela

2002 – Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales

2005 – Prisoner in the Garden: Photos, Letters, and Notes

2009 – Selected Speeches and Writings of Nelson Mandela: The End of Apartheid in South Africa

2010 – Conversations with Myself

2010 – Quotes of Nelson Mandela

2011 – Nelson Mandela by Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations

2012 – Le Temps est venu

2012 – Notes to the Future: The Authorized Book of Selected Quotations

2013 – Long Walk to Freedom: Illustrated children’s edition

2013 – Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom: The Book of the Film

2013 – Meine Waffe ist das Wort: Mit einem Vorwort von Desmond Tutu

2013 – Un ideale per cui sono pronto a morire – Il discorso più bello di Nelson Mandela

2017 – Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years (released posthumously and completed by Mandla Langa.)

2018 – The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela


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Personality of Frida Kahlo				    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	    	5/5							(10)

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Personality of Frida Kahlo

“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration. Since my subjects have always been my sensations, my states of mind and the profound reactions that life has been producing in me, I have frequently objectified all this in figures of myself, which were the most sincere and real thing that I could do in order to express what I felt inside and outside of myself.”

More than half a century has passed from her death, and yet Frida Kahlo’s distinctive and iconic image still feels so fresh today. The flowered hair, her intense gaze under that striking unibrow and all that colourful dresses made her stand out to the world. Yet, she wasn’t just an image, Frida Kahlo was a renowned Mexican painter of the 20th century and a worldwide symbol of feminism and vigour.

She was always attracting attention. Either in the streets of New Work, in Paris, or in happenings in Mexico, people just stood and stared at her. The combination of the long colourful dresses, the traditional jewellery and the braided hair with the flowers and the ribbons, created a unique aesthetic style with no comparison. Her appearance, closely bound up with her artworks, shaped her identity, and all those different colours and shapes reflected her unique personality. Regional Mexican garments, such as the Tehuana dresses, became her signature outfit.


“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”

Frida Kahlo’s paintings

Common theme in Frida’s paintings was herself, always painted in vibrant colours. With shocking intimacy, lots of phantasy and humour she depicts her own body broken, bleeding or in pain. She painted her own reality and made art out of her physical and emotional pain. Her works might be overly dramatic but nonetheless authentic and make people stare them with awe. Every little detail is important too, for it may hide her deepest and most secret feelings. Her eyes in her self-portraits draw people in and gaze into their very soul. Pablo Picasso, who admired her deeply, once said: “Neither Derain, nor I, nor you are capable of painting a head like those of Frida Kahlo.”

Her inspiration was her own life. Frida recreated snapshots of her life, where her physical and psychological pain is evident. Her life and her work were shaped not only by her turbulent relationship with Diego Riviera — their marriage, the infidelities, their divorce, their remarriage, — but also by her chronic physical pain, the multiple surgeries, the miscarriages, and the amputation. Her works narrate a personal journey through pain and hardship, masked under a thick layer of colourful oil paint.


“I don’t give a shit what the world thinks. I was born a bitch, I was born a painter, I was born fucked. But I was happy in my way. You did not understand what I am. I am love. I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious. I am; simply I am … You are a shit.”


Frida Kahlo’s personality.

Looking deeper into Frida Kahlo’s life and work, one could say that Frida might have actually suffered from borderline personality disorder (BPD). Overall, people with BPD have a fragmented, chaotic sense of self, meaning they lack stability or self-cohesion. Their emotional relationships are unstable, they experience tremendous fear of abandonment, and they try to avoid being abandoned by any means often using manipulating techniques. This could perhaps explain why Frida felt hopeless and empty throughout her life.

During her whole life, Frida was trying to feel cohesive and complete. She was constantly seeking love, approval and attention from the people around her in order to feel alive. All that derived from her childhood years. Her illness at the age of six and her withered leg made her feel fragile, weak and inferior to other children. Yet, it was her fragility that brought her father closer to her. He always helped her and looked after her. Frida was the third child of her father’s second marriage and thus she feared that he would neglect her. Thus, she tried to make him love her more than his other children and bound him to her. This was a reoccurring theme in her life. Her mother on the other hand, wasn’t as caring as her father, what left an empty space in her heart.

Inevitably, she was trying to get from her husband the love she never got from her mother. Diego was an older man, with whom she felt secure, because he protected her just like her father did. Yet, Diego meant much more to Frida. He was not only her partner but her mentor as well. His influence helped her shape her art and her persona. She had idealized him. They were strongly attached to each other. One needed the other to feel complete as a person. Each time that this special bond broke, it had serious effect on their lives, especially Frida’s. She felt abandoned, lonely and heartbroken. Her life had no meaning. It comes as no surprise that she forgave his many infidelities and remarried him. They shared an emotional attachment that made Frida need Diego in order to live and keep her art alive. Diego felt no different.

Frida’s fragmented self and feelings of abandonment are obvious in all of her paintings. Despite all the people who cared about her, she always felt lonely and unwanted. Her constant need of love and approval was evident in all the letters she wrote to Diego, her friends and lovers. She took rejection hard and often struggled with depression for long periods of time. In spite of all the anxiety and periods of depression, Frida used to say that she loved life, and there were times when everything seemed pretty. In her final years, all the heavy medication she took, due to her serious health condition, made her paranoid from times to times. Frida was afraid of death and thus she took great care of her health. Her serious health problems made her have regular medical check-ups and go under multiple surgeries.

As said before, Frida was an attention-seeker. Her appearance alone –the colourful dresses, the jewellery and the flowers – never went unnoticed. She had managed to create an extraordinary persona that cached everyone’s eye. However, Frida didn’t hesitate to deploy her own pain and suffering to get what she wanted – admiration and attention. And that surely is reflected in her paintings too. By painting herself as a martyr, who has suffered extreme pain, she managed to provoke feelings not only of admiration but also of pity and sympathy. She presented her problems in an overdramatic way, making others see her as a tragic victim, either of Diego’s infidelity or her physical pain’s. She rightfully won the title of “The Grande Dama of Suffering” for she used her illness and suffering in her favor. “We like being ill to protect ourselves,” she wrote in her diary, because she felt that when sick, she was loved and taken care of the most.

Nothing could fill the empty space inside Frida’s soul. The only thing that partially soothed her pain was her relationship with Diego. But every fight made it worse. Over time her desperation grew bigger and led her to alcohol and excessive use of painkillers. During the last year of her life she made numerous suicide attempts. People with BPD often behave like that. Frida loved kids, but she couldn’t have children of her own and that was killing her. Painting was the solution to her every problem. Getting through hardship by making art became an integral part of her life. It gave her strength and a reason to live. Receiving admiration for her works was her only comfort in life.

“The most important part of the body is the brain. Of my face, I like the eyebrows and eyes. Aside from that, I like nothing. My head is too small.”


Frida Kahlo’s childhood

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, a small city in the suburbs of Mexico. She was born with a mixed heritage. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was German of Hungarian-Jewish descent, whilst her mother, Matilde Calderón, was of Spanish and Indian heritage and a devout Catholic.parents of frida kahlo Her full name was Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón, but she dropped the ‘e’ from her German name because of the rise of Nazism in Germany at the time, and became known as Frida, using a more Hispanic name. It’s obvious that Frida wanted to create a myth around her name. Thus, she also claimed to be born on 1910, the same year with the outbreak of the Mexican revolution.

Yet, Frida wasn’t born lucky. All the hardship started at her early childhood. When she was only six years old, Frida was diagnosed with polio. The disease, caused great damage to her right leg, leaving it shorter and weaker than the left. She tried very hard to cope with her disfigurement. She usually hid it under long skirts or crossed one leg over the other while seated, as often seen in photographs. Children used to make fun of her in school, calling her “Pata de Palo”, meaning peg-leg, a nickname which she later adopted herself and jokingly used to sign her letters to her friends. Frida closed herself off from other people and created a world of phantasy in her mind. She invented an imaginary friend who later might have inspired her double portrait The Two Fridas (1939).

“My toys were those of a boy: skates, bicycles.”

However, Frida didn’t give up and tried to overcome her impairment. She got into several sports, such as football, boxing and swimming. She liked climbing on trees and ride her bike along the lakes of Chapultepec Park, activities unusual for little girls in Mexico at the time. She was different in every aspect and people admired her for that. On the other hand, the singularity of her behaviour scared the other children away.

“I am in agreement with everything my father taught me and nothing my mother taught me.”


Her relationship with her family

Even within her family Frida felt alone and isolated. Her loneliness is evident both in the family pictures and her paintings later on. As a tomboy, she was very different from her sisters — even from her sister Cristina, no matter how close in age they were. mother of frida kahloHer mother, Matilde, wasn’t an affectionate person. She was cold and distant towards her and seemed to love God more.

The lack of affection from her mother might be the root cause of Frida’s emotional hunger throughout her life. father of frida kahloShe needed the love and attention that was deprived as a child. A mother-child bond is one of the most important bonds in the first years of a child’s life and has a huge emotional impact on the child when its missing.

Unlike with her mother, Frida had a very close relationship with her father. Guillermo loved Frida very much and it was very obvious that she was his favourite child. Frida is the most intelligent of my daughters, she is the most like me,” he said. He was very attentive towards Frida and devoted himself to her recovery, since she was special for him. Guillermo also wanted to spark Frida’s imagination in a wide variety of ways. He was a photographer, and he liked taking Frida with him at his studio or at the photo shooting locations. He was a good painter too, and that’s how Frida first came in contact with painting. He was Frida’s role model, and he made her childhood happy. She admired him for never giving up on his work, despite his health problem (he long suffered from epileptic seizures), and it seems that she took his example later in her life as well.


“I was a child who went about in a world of colors… My friends, my companions, became women slowly; I became old in instants”.


The teenage years of Frida Kahlo

In 1922, Frida’s father believing in her intelligence and having great hopes for her, decided to enrol Frida to Escuela Nacional Prepatoria, a preparatory school in Mexico City. Her mother was most likely opposed to this idea, thinking it would be very dangerous for a girl to be alone in an unprotected environment. In addition, it was very rare for girls of the time to get a higher education. In fact, there were only 35 girls out of the two hundred students in that school.

Her distinctive clothing and her unusual hairstyle drew her classmate’s attention, however this time positively. Her friends thought she was fascinating. They said she carried “a little world” in her bag, books, notebooks, drawings even dried flowers and butterflies. Frida wasn’t a diligent student. Thanks to her intelligence however she got high scores without much of an effort. She could read a text once and remember it forever. She didn’t like attending boring lectures, instead she preferred to sit outside and read books with her friends.  Frida was unconventional for her time; her friends were too, and so they formed a group named Los Cachuchas. It consisted of seven boys and two girls. They liked creating chaos at school with the outrageous pranks they pulled. Once, they brought a donkey in the halls and the classrooms emptied and, on another occasion, they set off firecrackers during a boring lecture that they wanted to get cancelled. Frida Kahlo was gaining somewhat of a name amongst her peers.

I very much love things, life, people.”


Frida Kahlo’s teenage crush with Diego Rivera

In Prepatoria Frida saw Diego Rivera for the first time, a well-known painter of the time, who was there to paint a mural in one of the school’s amphitheatres. He was then 36 years old and Frida barely 15. Frida was immediately and completely smitten by Diego. She idolized him, and dreamt of them being together. Indeed, her dream came true many years later. Diego was working long hours at the amphitheatre, always accompanied by beautiful models, who posed for him, and who most probably were his lovers too. One of those beautiful women was Diego’s wife, Lupe Marín. She and Frida would become good friends in the future. Frida was always just sitting there and watching Diego paint with awe. She was jealous of his lovers, and she made fun of him now and then trying to embarrass him in front of them, by calling one with the name of the other. One day Frida told her friends: My ambition is to have a child by Diego Rivera. And I’m going to tell him so someday.” Frida wasn’t blessed to have children with Diego, but they did get married nonetheless.

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”


Frida Kahlo’s terrible bus accident

Undoubtedly, the nearly fatal accident Frida had when she was 18 years old, shocked everyone who knew her. On September 17, 1925, Frida was riding a bus home from school together with her first boyfriend and fellow Cachucha, Alejandro Gomez Arias, when an old electric trolley car crashed into the bus. Frida Kahlo legThose who were present in the accident were talking about a girl covered in blood and glitter. This girl was Frida, and she would survive to become one of the greatest artists of all time.

In that life-threatening accident, Frida got heavily injured. She was taken to the hospital nearly in pieces. Her spinal column, collarbone, pelvis and ribs were all broken in more than one places. Her shoulder was dislocated. Her right leg was fractured in 11 places, whilst her right foot was crushed as well. An iron handrail was penetrating her body from one side to the other. The pain was excruciating.

Due to the multiple fractures and injuries Frida was bedridden in the hospital for three months. The shock was so big for her parents that none of them visited her at the hospital. Her mother kept to herself for several months, whilst her father fell seriously ill. Her sister Matilde and a few friends were the only ones who went to visit Frida. When she got out of the hospital, the atmosphere in her house was very heavy. She spent many months recovering at home, suffering from severe pain from head to toe. She felt lonely and was overly afraid of death.


“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”


The start of a painting career

From 1925 onwards, Frida’s life became a constant battle against ill-health and corrosion. For many months she was laid up in bed, wearing plaster corsets, that prevented her from moving. Therefore, Frida began to paint. At first painting was something to help pass time, but later on it became an integral part of her life. Through painting Frida managed to reinvent herself and she began a brave attempt to rise like some phoenix from the ashes. She had found a way to express her feelings and the pain she was going through. Her first works were mostly self-portraits that revealed her physical suffering and her feelings of loneliness and helplessness. She bared her soul to the world and used her phantasy to describe her inner struggles not in words but in colours. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

“I love you more than my own skin.”


Frida Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera

By 1928 Frida was able to move and walk again. The same year, Frida was officially introduced to Diego Rivera, who she met again after all these years. Diego was then 41 years old and one of the most famous artists in Mexico. His murals decorated the walls of the country’s most important buildings. Frida Kahlo and Diego RiveraOne day, Frida went to find Diego at the site where he was working. She found him atop a scaffolding working on another one of his murals. She called him loudly and asked him to get down and give her his honest opinion on the works she’d brought with her. “Look, I have not come to flirt or anything even if you are a woman-chaser. I have come to show you my painting. If you are interested in it, tell me so, if not, likewise, so that I will go to work at something else to help my parents,” she said. Diego got down from the scaffolding and took a look at Frida’s paintings, “Look,” he said, “in the first place, I am very interested in your painting, above all in this portrait of you, which is the most original. The other three seem to me to be influenced by what you have seen. Go home, paint a painting, and next Sunday I will come and see it and tell you what I think. You have talent.”

Just a few days after his first visit at her house, Diego kissed Frida for the first time and the two became inseparable. They had a huge age difference between them. Diego was 20 years older than Frida but this didn’t seem to bother her. Frida’s family eventually accepted their relationship as well. Her father used to warn Diego; “She is a devil,” he often said. But Diego loved Frida’s unconventional thought and sharp mind. He was struck by her fresh spirt and sexuality. It looked like they never got bored of each other. From the way they spoke to each other, it was clear that they also shared the same sense of humour and sarcasm, “You have a dog face,” he was saying teasingly, “And you have the face of a frog!” she was answering him back. It’s a wonder that a young and beautiful girl like Frida fell in love with someone so much older, overweight and physically unattractive, like Diego. Diego’s appearance might not have been his strong point, but he had a strong social status, a great talent and charm that attracted the ladies. He was Frida’s world, her everything; her teenage crush, her mentor, her source of inspiration, her great love. He was a strong man and Frida was feeling safe in his arms. She could lean on him and evolve her talent.


“Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.”


Frida’s marriage with Diego

Frida and Diego got married on August 21, 1929, in a simple ceremony that only Frida’s father and few other friends attended. Frida’s parents said it was like the marriage between an elephant and a dove. During the first few months of their marriage Frida wasn’t painting much. She devoted herself to taking care of her husband. Frida Kahlo and Diego RiveraYet, in 1929 in her self-portrait “Time flies” her serious and rather sad face reveals that there might have been troubles in their marriage already. Frida suffered a miscarriage that left her devastated. She tried not to think about it much, therefore she kept her mind busy by taking care after her house and Diego, by painting, or by accompanying her husband at work. Despite the pain and disappointment of not being able to have a baby, Frida had another problem to deal with – Diego’s affairs with other women. Although her feelings were hurt, she was always trying to laugh Diego’s affairs off. As a couple they had a stormy relationship with many violent fights, yet they loved each other deeply. Frida was going through tremendous mood swings. There were times when she was upset, furious, and felt hatred towards Diego, and others when she felt utterly in love with him and swore to love and take care of him forever.

One thing is for sure, one could not live without the other. “Little Frida” was like a mother to Diego who loved him unconditionally and forgave his mistakes. He too loved her very much and believed in her and her talent. That’s also why he tried to make her independent by helping her develop and evolve her work as an artist. On the other hand, Frida felt emotionally complete only when she was by Diego’s side. Despite the pain he was causing her, he was the only one who could fill her empty soul. She found meaning in life, only when he was in it. Even her art was highly influenced by him. Her existence was meaningless without him. She was his most loyal ally and supporter, and she never asked more than he could give. This was the only way the two could be together. A friend of theirs one said: “She treated him like a god. He treated her like a sweet thing.”

Diego did not only help Frida shape her art, but also helped her create a persona. In fact, Frida only embraced the so- called Mexicanism during her lifetime, just to please Diego. That’s why she started wearing the traditional Tahuana dresses. But all the while, all these colourful dresses, the jewellery, the ribbons and the flowers became an integral part of her image and personality. They served as inspiration for her art and at the same time as a mask to hide her pain and despair.


“I find that Americans completely lack sensibility and good taste. They are boring, and they all have faces like unbaked rolls.”


Frida’s and Diego’s life in America

The political scene in Mexico was tense. Diego, as an artist inspired by the political landscape of the time, was considered to be a controversial figure. The Communists called him “government agent” whilst the government an “agent of the revolution”. Diego decided that it was time to leave the country. Frida of course supported his decision and followed him to San Francisco on November, 10, 1930. On their way there, Frida gave Diego a self-portrait with a strange city in the background as a gift. “Its background was an unfamiliar city skyline. When we arrived in San Francisco, I was almost frightened to realize that her imagined city was the very one we were now seeing for the first time,” Diego said.

Frida knew very well that for Diego art came first. He was working long hours, and he was away from home all day long. At first, the days in San Francisco were very boring to Frida. She used to follow Diego at work, and she rarely painted for herself. After Diego’s art exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Frida’s life became more interesting. She got new friends, such as Dr. Eloesser and Tina Modotti with whom she explored Manhattan and went out to luxurious restaurants and the movies. Although she regularly mocked the American lifestyle, she got used to the new way of living. She was no longer the shy and lonely woman she used to be when they first came to America. Wherever she’d go, she was always the centre of attention, thanks to her Mexican outfit and Diego was always bringing out the best of her extraordinary character when they were together in public. In 1932, in Detroit, Frida and Diego lived a life in luxury, and quickly became a part of the city’s high society, amongst other artists and billionaires of the time. One of them was Henry Ford who gave them a car in exchange for a portrait of his daughter.


“I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”


Frida Kahlo’s obsession with motherhood

In the summer of 1932, Frida got pregnant again for the second time. She decided to keep the baby despite her ill-health but unfortunately the pregnancy was lost. She spent thirteen days in the hospital, full of pain and grieve. For many days she was crying nonstop out of despair and fear that she would never be able to have a baby. Frida’s feelings are reflected in her painting Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932), where she depicted herself lying in the hospital bed, suffering and bleeding. At first, she started with just a few drawings and a portrait, and later on, she asked her doctor to bring her some medical books so that she could draw in detail the lost fetus. Frida’s artistic outburst that followed this tragic event of her life is best described by Diego’s own words: “Immediately thereafter, she began work on a series of masterpieces with had no precedent in the history of art—paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance to truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering. Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit.”

As seen in her paintings My Birth (1932), My Nurse and I (1937), Me and My Doll (1937), the agony of not being able to have a baby followed her through her life. According to Diego they had three more failed attempts to have children. There could be many reasons why Frida so desperately desired to have kids. Perhaps all that she wanted was to give Diego a child or just strengthen their relationship. Another guess, is that she sought some form of fulfilment in motherhood. Her obsession with motherhood was evident not only in her paintings but also in Caza Azul, her home in Mexico. There, Frida kept fertility books, a human fetus preserved in a jar of formaldehyde — a gift from Dr. Eloesser — and a huge collection of dolls. Frida clearly had lots of love to give. She was very affectionate with her sister’s children, and also had many pets; cats, dogs, pigeons, parrots, an eagle, a few monkeys and a deer.


“Pain, pleasure, and death are no more than a process for existence.”


The death of Frida Kahlo’s mother

Just a few months after her miscarriage in 1932, her mother died in Mexico. This was a very difficult period in Frida’s life. In just a short period of time, Frida not only lost an unborn child but also her mother. The two of them never had an affectionate relationship in the past but despite their fights they came pretty close later on when both grew older. Frida used to call her “mi Jefe” (my chief). At the news of her loss, Frida fell apart. She would miss her mother dearly for the rest of her life.


“Painting completed my life.”


The meaning of painting in Frida Kahlo’s life

Kahlo channelled her grief into art. Despite the fact that she started painting more and only got better by time, painting wasn’t her favourite activity at the time. Instead, she preferred getting dressed in her traditional dresses and go out to visit friends, to shop or go to the movies. She wasn’t devoted enough. She considered painting as part of her persona, and nothing was more important to her than just being who she was –the remarkable Frida Kahlo. Diego believed in her talent, but his efforts to make her take art seriously went in vain. However, her negative attitude towards her work would change over time.


“I am that clumsy human, always loving, loving, loving. And loving. And never leaving.”


A greatly troubled marriage

Frida’s and Diego’s marriage suffered under great strain and continued to deteriorate. Diego was working around the clock. Frida, most of the time was staying home alone, feeling sad and lonely. She was crying a lot, what seemed to make Diego angry.

In 1933, Diego got a job to paint a mural at the newly built Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. He liked his life in America. He was enjoying the fame he got from this country and didn’t want to go back to his old life. But Frida was homesick and desperate to return to Mexico. This of course brought forth many arguments between them. Frida depicts her lonely life in America and her need to go back home in her painting My Dress Hangs There (1933). The fights were very intense sometimes and Frida’s eyes were always red from crying. After a while Diego got fired from the project because he incorporated politically controversial messages into his work that insulted the Rockefeller family, and they took action to shut it down. His mural was immediately coved up. That incident seemed to have greatly upset Diego and caused further troubles in their marriage. Soon after, they decided to return to Mexico but Diego never felt right about this decision and blamed Frida for persisting. His behaviour gave Frida a hard time and made her feel guilty and miserable.


“I suffered from two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down. The other accident is Diego.”


The life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico

When Frida and Diego returned to Mexico in 1933, they moved into their new house at the corner of Palmas and Altavista in San Angel, a house especially designed to suit their unique and unconventional lifestyle. In fact, it consisted of two separate buildings joined by an elevated bridge.Frida - Diego Frida’s was painted pink, Diego’s blue. Both were surrounded by a natural cactus fence inspired by the Mexican tradition that caught everyone’s eye. The colourful walls, the paintings, the huge garden with the rare plants which Frida was gardening herself, as well as the bizarre pets, such as monkeys and parrots made the house look as if it came from another planet. Their house acted as a creative nest for some of the most famous and talented artists of the time. Painters, writers, photographers, musicians, actors, even politicians, and other renown and wealthy people visited the famous couple’s home, and they all had a story to tell.

Despite how colourful their house might have been, their life had its dark side. Frida’s dream for a fresh start in their marriage crashed the moment they arrived in Mexico. Diego was dealing with great psychological pressure due to his failed mural at the Rockefeller Center and his reluctant return to Mexico. He couldn’t find meaning in his art anymore and painted less. He had lost many pounds and suffered from psychosomatic disorders. Perhaps he was going through a middle age crisis. All these affected Frida as well, who was yet again felling lonely and helpless. Her health was going from bad to worse. During 1934 she was admitted three times to the hospital, once to get an abortion and the rest due the worsening pain in her leg.


“I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.”


Diego’s affair with Frida’s sister

The situation only got worse when Frida discovered Diego’s affair with her younger sister Cristina. The attraction between those two began much sooner in 1929, when Christina posed naked in the role of Eve for one of Diego’s murals. Christina had perhaps always been jealous and competitive of Frida, nevertheless she was undoubtably another victim of Diego’s charm. Frida was dealing with a double betrayal, not only from her husband, but from her sister as well. It hurt her feelings irreparably. She was overwhelmed with anger, disappointment, resentment. Her world fell apart. Now she was truly alone. She vented her anger by cutting her hair short, and she stopped wearing the Tehuana dresses that Diego liked.

Frida could take it no more. She left Diego and moved in a modern apartment in the center of Mexico City. She tried to fool everyone into thinking that she was happy. But those who truly knew her, could see the pain in her eyes. Her painting A Few Small Nips (1935) portrays her hurt soul, the despair and melancholy she was feeling. She lies naked, bleeding and suffering, whilst Diego stands beside the bed staring at her with a knife in his hand.

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”

Despite being separated, they met regularly. They couldn’t stay away from each other for long. Diego knew that he could never be faithful to a woman, but he truly regretted hurting her. If he had to choose between Frida and Christina, he would choose Frida without any hesitation.

By the end of 1935, Frida using her humour as a weapon, got over it pretty quickly and forgave Diego for what he did. Sure, a mistake can be forgiven, but not forgotten as seen in her paintings Memory (1937) and Remembrance of an Open Wound (1938). Frida however appears different this time. The wound is still there, but she stands free and powerful, ready to go her own way. It is a fact that this event made Frida stronger. Instead of being a just beautiful presence by Diego’s side, she decided to get independent. Of course, she never stopped shining bright next to him, but soon she realized that what got the other’s attention was her own light and energy.


“Of the opposite sex, I have the moustache and, in general, the face.”


Frida’s alcohol problem and bisexual affairs

Apparently, the next few years were happy ones, as Frida moved back in with Diego. To spent her time, she used to take long walks, visit her sisters, even go on some brief excursions in the countryside. However, during those years Frida started drinking heavily. Sometimes she carried a little flask of cognac in her purse or hid it in her coat. Now and then, she’d put liquor in a perfume’s bottle and while pretending to wear her perfume, she’d take a quick sip or two under her blouse without anyone noticing. It was widely known that Frida could drink any man under the table.” Her alcohol problem is evident through Dr. Eloesser’s letters. He advised her to cut down alcohol and she answered that she had stopped drinking “cocktailitos and only drunk a bear daily. But her addiction in alcohol and drugs would only become worse.

Moreover, it wasn’t just Diego who was unfaithful. Frida herself had quite a few affairs, with not just men but with women as well. The free-spirited and unconventional lifestyle at the time, helped her embrace her homosexual side. The love affairs between women were then a common thing and considered as innocent pleasures. Neither Frida, nor Diego who encouraged her and seemed to enjoy his wife’s homosexual affairs, were ashamed of her homosexuality and it didn’t by any means make her less appealing in his eyes. In What I saw in the Water (1938) and Two Nudes in a Forest (1939), Frida presents her ambivalent sexuality to the world. Some say that Diego encouraged Frida’s homosexual affairs because he couldn’t or wouldn’t please her sexually himself whilst others because he wanted to be free to have his own. What’s for sure is that he didn’t have the same reaction to Frida’s heterosexual affairs. Then, he became jealous and possessive. Frida kept those affairs in secret and warned her lovers that Diego was even capable of murder. Her strong sexuality is expressed through her paintings Flower of Life (1943) and Sun and Life (1947), where the sexual energy is almost palpable.


“I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.”


Frida Kahlo’s affair with Leon Trotsky

On November 21, 1936, after nine whole years in exile, the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia arrived in the harbour of Torreón in Mexico. At the behest of Diego, the Mexican government granted Trotsky political asylum under the condition that he wouldn’t interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Frida was among those who welcomed them, while Diego awaited them home. Frida and Diego would share their home with Trotsky and his wife for the next two years. Diego took care of the house’s safety, while Frida was their advisor and accompanied the couple almost everywhere, since none of them spoke a word of Spanish.

Trotsky was very friendly towards Diego and Frida, despite his cold and distant character. The four of them spent a lot of time together; they often had lunch together, made picknicks and went on small trips near the Mexico City. It was only a matter of time before Trotsky fell for Frida. At first, he wrote her love letters, which he slipped into books that didn’t hesitate to give her even in front of their partners. In just a few weeks the flirt turned into a love affair and the couple met in secret in Christina’s home.

But eventually Frida grew tired of him and ended the affair in just a few months. Trotsky through another letter explained Frida how important she was to him and begged her not to break up with him, but Frida had made up her mind. “I’m very tired of the old man,” she wrote in a letter to her friend Ella Wolfe. Frida was flattered by his attention and impressed by his status in the political world, but she wasn’t in love with him. A few months later, on November 7, 1937 — a significant date because it was not only Trotsky’s birthday but also the anniversary of the October Revolution — Frida painted a self-portrait as a birthday gift for Trotsky. She turned him down but gave herself back to him in the form of a portrait to tease him. In the dedication she wrote: “For Leon Trotsky with all love I dedicate this painting on the 7th of November 1937. Frida Kahlo in San Angel, Mexico.”


“I am my own muse, the subject I know best.”


Frida Kahlo’s career

Since her relationship with Trotsky ended, and he and his wife moved out, Frida’s relationship with Diego came back to normal. They lived together but put a great emphasis on personal autonomy and freedom. In the meantime, Frida started taking her art more seriously. She improved her technique by working every day with great concentration. The years 1937-1938 were her most productive years so far.

List of Frida Kahlo’s paintings created in 1937

List of Frida Kahlo’s paintings created in 1938

Frida spent many hours working alone in her studio even though she could easily get distracted. Frida deserved all the admiration and encouragement she received, however she never believed in herself and in the value of her work. She was very modest and hesitated to let others see her work. She neither tried to exhibit her work, nor sell them or get good reviews. She wanted to be remembered for who she was as a person, rather than as an artist. In the summer of 1938, she made her own money by selling four of her paintings for 200 dollars each to the American actor Edward G. Robinson. This came as a surprise to Frida and immediately realized what this meant for her, “This way I am going to be able to be free, I’ll be able to travel and do what I want without asking Diego for money,” she said.


“I don’t know how to write love letters.”


Frida Kahlo’s life in New York

In December of that same year Frida travelled to New York City alone for her first solo art exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. The exhibition was crowned with complete success, despite the bad economy. Twenty-five of her paintings were exhibited and half of them were sold. The exhibition received great reviews. There, she met the famous French surrealist poet and critic André Breton, who got so fascinated by Frida’s paintings that characterized her art as “a ribbon around a bomb”. Frida wanted to use her maiden name and not Diego’s, so that people won’t presume that she wanted to get advantage of her husband’s name, but, in the end, she had to use Diego’s name in a parenthesis beside hers as well. Diego was incredibly supportive in all this, and he cleared the way for her success by sending many letters of recommendation to prominent figures of the artistic world of the time.

Frida loved being in the center of attention and completely independent for the first time. Frida Kahlo freeShe was free, away from Diego, determined to live her life in Manhattan to the fullest. She had many friends there and always had a great time wherever she’d go. Everyone got captivated by her bright personality whereas her unique appearance and outfits drew great attention as always. She liked life in New York and was fascinated by the varied street life of Chinatown, Little Italy, Broadway and Harlem. Only her poor health was holding her back. Due to the pain in her right leg she couldn’t walk long distances, while the pain in her spine worsened.

While in New York, Frida continued her secret love affair with the photographer Nickolas Muray. Frida’s love letters reveal that it must have been a passionate relationship. However, no one and nothing could compare to the powerful connection she had with Diego. He was always in her thoughts. In the meantime, André Breton was organizing a second exhibition for her in Paris. She had second thoughts about going, but Diego who knew her best and wanted the best for her, convinced her to go.


“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”


Frida Kahlo’s life in Paris

So, after New York, Frida’s next stop was Paris. The exhibition of her works opened on 10 March 1939 in the Pierre Colle Gallery. Once again, the critics embraced the originality of her art with fantastic reviews. One of her paintings, the colourful self-portrait The Frame, was purchased by The Louvre. Her art inspired the Surrealists’ fascination and was warmly received by many artists, such as Kandinsky and Picasso, who gave her a unique pair of golden hand-shaped earrings as a gift.

Despite her success, Frida despised Paris. She couldn’t find absolutely no glory in the so-called city of light. She found the bohemian lifestyle of the artistic and intellectual Parisian elite pretentious and superficial. The atmosphere in Breton’s home was suffocating. In addition, she had to be hospitalised once due to a kidney infection. The pain was once again unbearable. Nevertheless, she got a glimpse of Paris’ surrealistic world, explored all the artist’s haunts with her newly made friends and played games such as jeux de la vérité (Truth or Consequences). The haute couture welcomed her with open arms and many French designers got inspired from her Mexican style. In addition, the French Vogue magazine featured a photograph of Frida Kahlo on its cover. Frida’s carefully constructed iconic image never failed to amaze and astonish.


“Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.”


Frida Kahlo and Surrealism

Frida was ignoring the fact that she was a Surrealist up until the moment that André Breton labelled her as such. However, she never intended to be part of the movement. Her work might look surrealistic at first sight, but there’s a big difference among her and the other artists of the movement. Her art is not just an outburst of pure imagination, she did not just paint dreams, but rather her own reality, her own life, her own pain. Frida and surrealismAll of her works derive from her own experiences and the way she perceived them. However, her art is often classified as surrealistic, due to the intimacy in her paintings, the vibrant colours and the randomness (especially in What the Water Gave me). From 1944 up until her death, Frida kept a personal diary, what is perhaps her most surreal work. There, she drew shapes and motives without any particular meaning, as if they were made under the influence of drugs. Undeniably this label gained her critical acclaim in her work, especially at a time when women artists were underestimated. Frida took advantage of her new label and took part in the International Exhibition of Surrealism, which was held in Mexico. She exhibited two of her paintings The Two Fridas (1939) and The Wounded Table (1940).


“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”


Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s divorce

When Frida returned to Mexico, in the summer of 1939, Diego requested a divorce from her. Frida moved back to La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, leaving Diego in San Angel. By the end of the year their divorce was official. The reasons still remain unknown. Frida was away for a long time and her absence might have strongly affected Diego. Some say that Diego learned about her affairs with Muray or Trotsky, others say that the problem was sexual, or that Frida could no longer put up with Diego’s infidelity. According to the couple they just went through a difficult phase in their relationship, but nothing would change what they felt or thought for each other. Indeed, just like it happened before, and despite the divorce, the couple continued to be seen together in public.

Yet, the same year Frida fell in depression and her health deteriorated once again. The severe pain in her spine and a fungus infection on her right hand, often prevented her from working. The doctors were persisting on another surgery. Her mental health went from bad to worse as well. She didn’t want to meet up with Diego or her friends, and she barely even left the house. She was feeling so desperate that she was drinking a whole bottle of brandy by herself each day. Moreover, she cut her hair short once again.

“I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind.”

However, depression helped Frida create some of her best paintings at that time. Unlike in the past, she now made more efforts to sell her works. She wanted to be completely independent of Diego and not take his money. Once again, her works depict the abandonment, loneliness and despair she was feeling during her divorce with Diego, and her fear of death. These are the following:

In the meantime, she learned the news of Trotsky’s assassination. She got terribly distraught about it. Her health got even worse. Not only that, but she was also picked up by the Mexican police, as she knew the murderer, and was interrogated for two days. Being already emotional unstable, Frida had a mental breakdown. She cried for days. Diego, who was in San Francisco at the time, got really worried and asked Dr. Eloesser to convince her to go there too. It was a good diversion and her mood lifted right away. She said that seeing Diego made her feel better in no time.


“Diego is not anybody’s husband and never will be, but he is a great comrade


Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s second marriage

Shortly after their reconciliation, Diego proposed to Frida wanting to remarry her. He claimed that she needed him. Truth be told, he needed her as much as she needed him. Frida eventually agreed to remarry Diego but only under two conditions. The first one was to be financial independent. She wanted to make her own money by selling her paintings. The second one was that they would have no sexual relations whatsoever at least not until he proved his loyalty to her.

And so, on December 8, 1940, Frida and Diego got married for the second time. It was a joyful moment for them both. After going through a difficult time of upheaval and depression, Frida realized that she needed Diego to feel complete and secure. Even if they had no sexual relations as promised, he was her anchor in this lonely world. By his side she felt strong and confident. Moreover, Frida had set her own terms this time and was feeling better than ever. They had a loving and affectionate relationship once again.


“I tease and laugh at death, so it won’t get the better of me.”


The death of Frida Kahlo’s father

Frida’s happiness though didn’t last for long. On April 14, 1941, her beloved father, Guillermo Kahlo died in Casa Azul. Frida was utterly and absolutely devastated. She was closer to him than anybody, as he was the first one who believed in her and supported her first steps in the world of art. Her sadness was so deep that her health deteriorated once again and would decline even more over the coming years. Some years after his death, Frida painted her father’s portrait and wrote a dedication that showed how much she loved him and admired him: “I painted my father, Wilhelm Kahlo of Hungarian-German origin, artist-photographer by profession, in character generous, intelligent and fine, valiant because he suffered for sixty years with epilepsy, but he never stopped working and he fought against Hitler, with adoration. His daughter Frida Kahlo.”


“Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.”


Frida Kahlo’s career in Mexico

During the 40s, Frida’s career took off. Her work was gaining recognition in Mexico and was included in the country’s greatest exhibitions. Not only that, but she also got many awards, distinctions and grants and took part in cultural events and big projects. She began to paint large-scale portraits such as The Broken Column (1944) and Tree of Hope, Keep Firm (1946). Still, despite her increasing popularity, it was difficult to make a living on her own.

In September 1940, Frida began teaching art at the Ministry of Public Education School of Painting and Sculpture in Mexico City, better known as La Esmeralda. Her students adored her. She was a living legend for them. She didn’t have to teach them specific painting techniques. All she had to do was inspire and motivate them. But a few months later her health prevented her from teaching at La Esmeralda. However, she continued giving lessons at four of her favourite students, Los Fridos, who regularly visited her in Casa Azul. After all, what place could inspire them more than Frida’s own house? Another great moment for Frida was the opening of the pulqueria “La Rosita”. With Frida’s help and under Diego’s supervision her students had the chance to paint a decorative mural on one of the walls. That night, the event was attended by many people and caught the attention of the Mexican high society.


“I am happy to be alive, as long as I can paint.”


Frida Kahlo’s final years

Frida’s final years were full of struggle and pain. Her health went from bad to worse and the pain in her spine forced her to go under many surgeries. She had to wear medical corsets, and she was unable to sit or lay down in them. She couldn’t handle pain well, nor did she like being bedridden for months. Yet, she had no other choice. She considered those corsets to be some kind of punishment. Her only joy was painting, for she could yet again express her pain through art. The Wounded Deer (1946) is a painting of that time that reflects her declining health. In 1950, she was hospitalized once again. For the many months that followed in the hospital painting was the only thing Frida had in mind. She painted for almost five hours each day. “When I leave the hospital two months from now”, she said, “there are three things I want to do: paint, paint, paint.” Despite everything, Frida kept her hope alive and a positive attitude to the whole situation. Her friends were always around to cheer her up, and Diego never left her side.

Frida Kahlo hurtThough when she went back home to Casa Azul, she lost her every hope of getting better. Her days were monotonous; because of the pain she mostly staid inside. She could only walk small distances whilst even her wheelchair was uncomfortable. Painkillers were her only salvation. She was feeling desperate and depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. Diego, as usual, was away from home for many hours but Frida didn’t care much anymore. Even though she tried to hide her sorrow in front of others, it was getting more difficult day-by-day. Because of her illness she came closer to her sister Christina, who stayed by her side till the end of her life. They had both long forgotten what divided them in the past. The maids and her nurse loved her dearly and took special care of her as if she was a little child. During that period of time, Frida was painting like no tomorrow. Maybe that’s why her last paintings seem so chaotic. Perhaps she could sense the ending was near.

“To paint is the most terrific thing that there is, but to do it well is very difficult.”

In the meantime, recognition and appreciation for her work continued to grow. In the spring of 1953, Frida had a solo exhibition in Mexico in the Galería Arte Contemporaneo. It was her first solo exhibition in her birthplace and a very special moment of her life. Knowing about her poor health no one expected her to show up. Yet Frida surprised them all on the opening day when she arrived by ambulance, had her bed moved to the centre of gallery and was carried in on a stretcher to the bed. It was an unforgettable night dedicated to Frida. She was the centre of attention and was receiving everyone’s congratulations. It seemed as a final goodbye from all those who admired her.


“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”


The last year of Frida Kahlo’s life

The last year of Frida’s life was a living nightmare. In August 1953, her right leg had to be amputated below the knee due to gangrene. It felt like a small death to Frida. Frida Kahlo life last yearBy losing her leg, she also lost the will to live. She lost her sense of ‘’self’’ and her self-respect. She almost hated herself. She also hated seeing the pity in other people’s eyes, so she didn’t allow visitors. Soon she got a prosthetic leg and her mood lifted for a while. Once again, she tried to deal with it with humour and bought a pair of red leather boots to hide it, but it didn’t really help her feel much better.

Her disability affected her behavior as well. Up until her final moments she loved brushing her hair and wear lipstick, but she couldn’t do much other than that without the help of others. As a result, she always had a bad temper, she was bossy and quarrelsome. When she wasn’t sleeping or under painkillers her behaviour was unpredictable, often hysteric and violent. She got addicted to painkillers and all kinds of opioid medications. She couldn’t do without them. Often, she had to take painkilling injections. When she got desperate, she took excessively high doses or mixed the drugs. Moreover, she was an alcohol addict. She was drinking two litters of cognac per day.

“I paint flowers so they will not die.”

Frida tried many times to kill herself. At first Diego was always by her side but later on he drifted apart as he could no longer see her suffering like that. “If I was brave, I would kill her. I cannot stand to see her suffer so,” he said. His behaviour made Frida feel even more desperate and alone. In some poems she wrote that he was the only reason she was still alive. For almost a year she didn’t paint anything at all. However, in the spring of 1954, she found the strength to get out of her bed and go to her studio. She knew that she didn’t have much time to live and perhaps she wanted to leave some more works behind. Still Life, Frida and Stalin and Marxism will give health to the sick were her last works. All three have a political meaning.

On July 2, 1954, Frida contracted bronchial pneumonia. Against her doctors’ advice she got out of her bed and took part in a Communist demonstration. This was her last public appearance. It was undoubtedly very brave of her. Diego was by her side, pushing her wheelchair in the streets of Mexico and many famous artists were following them.


“I hope the exit is joyful–and I hope never to come back. Frida”


Frida Kahlo’s death

On July 13, 1954, at 6 a.m., while it was still dark outside, Frida’s nurse thought that Frida called her and went to her room to see if she needed anything. She thought that Frida was sleeping and as always, she went to pull up her covers, but then she realized that Frida wasn’t breathing any more. Her hands were cold. Frida had passed away.Frida Kahlo's death

The news shocked Diego. He couldn’t accept that his “little Frida” – as he called her – wasn’t part of this world anymore. Like he said, his love for Frida was the most beautiful thing that happened in his entire life. The cause of death was officially reported as pulmonary embolism. Yet, it is very likely, but never confirmed, that Frida couldn’t live like that anymore and committed suicide. Some days prior to her death she drew a black angel in her diary up in the sky – it was undoubtedly the angel of death.

When her death was officially confirmed, they dressed her in her favourite Tehuana dress, tehuana of frida kahlobraided her hair and adorned her with her favourite jewels. Her friends came throughout the day to say their last goodbye. Her funeral was held in the Palace of Fine Arts, and hundreds of people paid their last respects to their beloved artist. In accordance with her wishes Frida was later cremated.

Frida died at the age of 47 having much more to give to the world. However, she left behind a remarkable legacy of works and a legendary persona. Her house, La Casa Azul, in Coyoacán opened as a museum in 1958, for those who want to get to know her a little better. Among her belongings the visitors have the chance to admire Frida’s last painting, a still life of cut watermelons as a tribute to life, painted eight days before her death. She added the inscription “Viva la Vida” (Long Live Life) by which the painting would become best known. Despite all the difficulties she went through, Frida was a fighter. She loved and lived life to the fullest till the end.







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Personality of Robin Williams

“On stage you‘re free. You can say and do things that if you said and did any place else, you ‘d be arrested.”

He was a man whose smile never faded away from his lips. He had a bright face, sparkling eyes and a heart full of love generosity and kindness. He was a talented but tormented soul and wore his happiness like a mask every day carrying his audiences away with his humorous stories and his satire.

Only a few people really knew him – sadly he was often misjudged. He was a talented comedian and an exceptionally gifted actor with a profound influence on many generations. He grew on people and won the world’s warmest adoration. He was a man of genius who found his way into people’s hearts with his humor like no one ever did before and fulfilled his potential. This man changed the stand-up comedy with his free-flying improvisational style.

He was a one-of-a-kind professional, a truly talented and respectful man that influenced his audiences and gave them smiles that reached deep into their chests and warmed their hearts. Robin Mclaurin Williams’ unique life story inspired people all around the world. His sudden death sent shockwaves through the world and gave rise to many questions.

“I’m a born entertainer. When I open the fridge door and the light goes on, I burst into song.”

The Lonely Childhood of Robin Williams

Robin William as a childRobin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Lake Forest, Chicago. He came from a wealthy family and had two elder half brothers, Robert Todd Williams and McLaurin Smith-Williams. Unfortunately, due to their parents’ divorce, Robin grew up and was raised as an only child and had no sibling relationship with his brothers whatsoever.

The siblings were divided between households and Robin ended growing up with his grandparents. He had a wealthy upbringing along with an exceptional education. He spoke six languages: English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German and French. His multilingual education was an asset to his acting career as it made him adept at vocal imitation.

Character and Phobias

Back in the days no one could ever predict that this quiet child would become such a exceptional comedian. Robin felt lonely and neglected by his own parents. Having no parents, friends or siblings around, he took comfort in his huge toy collection of nearly 2.000 toys.

He was a shy introvert, overweight, chubby boy with depression in his eyes often staring into space, but also restless from time to time seeking adult attention.

The time spent with his father was limited since he was constantly away for business, as it was with his mother who was caught up in her own life being a model and a nonprofit founder of nonprofit organizations. As a result, Robin grew up with plastic toys instead of loving interaction.

Parenthood creates a special bond that spans the years. Even though every parent wishes for that to happen, at times bad parenting gets in the way of achieving it. Many parents are often so caught up and stuck in their own personal and working lives that fail to care for their children. But there is no excuse for neglect. It is a form of emotional abuse that traumatises the child and has life-long effects.

Children have an especially difficult time with divorce as well. They have to cope with a changing family environment and loose daily contact with one or even both parents. Every divorce causes a turbulent transformational time in a child’s life, leaving a childhood trauma.

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

His parents’ divorce and the abandonment had an immediate effect on Robin. He became utterly quiet and reserved; he often seemed lost in his own thoughts and never talked much. He was often stressed out, had tremendous fear of the dark, especially of dark corners as well as shadows, loneliness and strangers.

Smiling and laughter were totally absent from his life. He closed himself off and sat home all alone gazing at the empty walls or at his toys. He didn’t eat much and he avoided going to school.

But when he did go to school, he felt good, seeing that he had his friends’ and teachers’ attention. He was an average student, neither the funniest nor the most introvert one. Robin attended Deer Path Junior High School until the age of 12. Later on, he moved along with his grandparents in a huge apartment in Detroit. Little did it matter to him, that he had a whole floor to himself.

“We were talking briefly about cocaine…yeah. Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that!”

First Steps into Acting

Robin’s loneliness made him come up with stories and fictional characters in his mind as well as talk to imaginary friends. He used his vivid imagination as a cure to loneliness.

Robin was then enrolled in Detroit Country Day School, a private all-boys school, where he was on the school’s soccer team and wrestlingRobin Williams's as a young man team, and was elected class president. But Robin wasn’t always famous at school. He had a strange behavior from time to time due to the various problems he was struggling with, such as the lack of affection and attention from his mother and the isolation from his peers and relatives.

As a result, he became victim of intellectual bullying and an outcast at school. His classmates made fun not only of his height and weight, but also of his dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Robin however was smart enough to realize that he had to find an alternative way to fight off the negativity around him and get closer to his classmates. This was also what made him famous later in life: humor. He began to cultivate an understanding that making people laugh was a way of avoiding bullying.

For him, the only way to bridge the distance between himself and his audience was by telling jokes. He finally started getting along with his classmates and this was the first time Robin got to “be somebody” at school, though he felt “a nobody” deep inside. He participated in his school’s Drama Club and performed in plays. At that time, he realized that, in this way, he could gain the respect of his peers. Getting the attention he so much desired, was also what gave him strength and seeing other people laugh with his jokes filled the empty hole in his soul. He’d been doing the same thing at home as a way to get attention and impress his family with his comic talent.

“I like my wine like my women – ready to pass out!”

Humor and Communication

When he turned 16, he moved for one last time with his grandparents in WoodacreCalifornia, where he lived most of his life. He started at a new school, Redwood High School, Larkspur, and he began to use his wit to win over his classmates there as well. He also joined the Club of Performing Acts and school’s official Drama Club for this reason. Bullying was a thing of the past for him as he made new friends really quickly – his sense of humor was his superpower. Right before his graduation he was awarded with the “funniest” and the “less likely to succeed guy” awards.

His family acknowledged his humor value as well, with it being something that played a great deal in their communication. Although things seemed to take a positive turn in their relationship, Robin knew this was not the case. Humor bound them together but Robin knew it wasn’t enough to bridge the communication gap between himself and his parents.

The lack of love and attention from the most important people in his life made Robin use jokes and other funny stories to keep them closer. He had an obsessive and compulsive need to constantly make his parents laugh.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ’Let’s party!’”

Humor as an Integral Part of his Life

As the years were passing by, Robin evolved his joke-telling talent and took it one step further. He developed a talent for mimicry and began to experiment with doing different voices. He poked fun at his own experiences and worries and difficulties of his everyday life. He felt joy in making others happy and feel better about life. But behind his smile, the joy and his jokes, was a hurting heart, and that was the grim reality of his bitter life. He could easily improvise and joke about his bad experiences, making them sound hilarious. Some of his favorite topics were:

  • bulling
  • motherly attention
  • solitude
  • fear

The smile of Robin WilliamsHe always used humor to cope with difficult and stressful situations in his life and one would think it worked as a remedy for him.

He graduated high school in 1969 and it was time to decide about his future. After long talks with his father und under a lot of pressure he applied and got accepted to Claremont Men’s College, California, in Political Science department.Soon, he realized that this new field he was getting into was completely strange and dull, and, thus, he dropped out after first semester.

Since he gave up on his father’s dream to become a politician, he chose his own path and broke into the world of comedy and acting.

“I went to rehab in wine country, just to keep my option open.”

The Drama School that Changed his Life

Robin decided to study theatre at the College of Marin, one of the most prominent acting schools worldwide, in Kentfield, California. His natural talent in acting and his improvisational skills helped him stand out and succeed as a student. As a matter of fact, his professor James Dunn once said: “I first knew he was more talented than the other kids… I remember calling my wife at 2 p.m. and telling her that this young man was going to be something special.”

In 1973 Robin received his first big break and left College of Marin for The Juilliard School in New York City, where he was awarded a full scholarship. Juilliard School is a prestigious performing-arts conservatory in Manhattan which is one of the world’s best institutions of performing arts and only 20 freshmen are admitted in Juilliard School per year. Moreover, he even was one of the two students who were admitted in the Advanced Program by John Houseman, a legendary acting veteran and a prominent film producer, at the Juilliard School. Christopher Reeve and Williams gained the two places at the beginning of their freshman year.

“You‘re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.”

A Peculiar Student

The main courses at the Juilliard School were dance, drama, and music, and although it addresses to upcoming actors and not comedians per se, it played a significant role in Robin’s life and career.

His wealth and privileged background as well as his exceptional education at Juilliard School, a school ranked as one of the top of its kind worldwide, turned him into a highly educated actor.

During his studies he had the chance to meet some of the acting world’s most renowned people in entertainment industry such as John Houseman, a Romania-born British American actor, the actor and singer Kevin Kline, the actress and singer Patti Lupone, and the actor, tenor and comedian Mandy Patinkin.

Robin was an excellent student but quiet and shy; he had a sensitive soul and he was full of energy. He lived alone, away from his family, the way he wanted in Broadway, one of the most vibrant places in the world. Things could be even better if it wasn’t for the demons of his past that followed his every step and haunted his thoughts. His peers loved both his character and his unique way of telling jokes. At the time, no one could even guess the burden inside him.

“The only reason Mickey Mouse has four fingers is because he can’t pick up a cheque.”

Robin left- or more preciously was cut off– Juilliard School during his junior year in 1976 without actually graduating. During his studies, he stayed true to his real passion of comedy. That may have been the reason why the Juilliard School underestimated his acting talent, and justified this decision by saying that Robin was just a comedian and that he could never be a “real” actor. There appears to be some agreement from all of the various accounts that Robin’s maniac performance style was at odds with the more traditional values emphasized by the institution. The school certainly emphasized the connection when Robin’s career went stratospheric.

Robin was indeed exceptional in comedy, but he just couldn’t or better yet wouldn’t follow the School’s formal study program. Robins‘ temperament was simply unsuited to the classical training program Juilliard School had to offer, he always went off script the way it suited him and made fun even out of the most serious roles. This was something that made him stand out from the other students and teachers liked it, however this wasn’t how things run in Juilliard School. Sometimes he was so drawn into improvisation that his fellow students couldn’t keep up with their own roles. The Schools formal study program didn’t come up to his expectations and made him feel restricted. The knowledge he got from the School have been of great value later to his movies.

He never saw acting and comedy as a job. For him these two were his way to communicate with the word and express himself. All he ever wanted was to leave his touch on every part he played and make each role deeply embedded in his personality.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

A lifelong friendship

Robin Williams first stepsA great chapter in Robin Williams’ life was his friendship with Christopher Reeve whom he met in his first year in Juilliard School. They were the only two students accepted to the advanced program and study under John Houseman. Robin and Christopher were like brothers. They shared a room, their stuff, their most secret thoughts, even food when Robin had no money to eat. While at Julliard, they were so close, that they made a special pact — whoever ‘made it’ first would always support the other one. Reeve of course went on to be Superman, while Williams made a name for himself as one of the funniest comedians of his generation, or of any generation for that matter.

They both grew up into successful actors and shared a special bond that always kept them close to each other. Unfortunately, the time came when their promise had to be fulfilled. In 1995, Christopher had a nearly fatal horse-riding accident that caused severe spinal-cord injury and left him a quadriplegic. While there was no need for either to support each other financially, rumors have been bubbling away for years that Williams wrote a cheque for 1.5 million pounds ($2.7 million) to pay Reeve’s medical bills. Robin stayed by his side, not only by visiting him at the hospital and giving him courage by making him laugh, but also through his donations to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. It was Robin’s way of saying thank you to his friend’s kindness and help during their student years. They shared in fact a true friendship, and stayed close in good and bad times, without ever expecting anything in return.

When Christopher Reeve died on October 10, 2004 of cardiac arrest, Robin Williams was inconsolable. “The world has lost a tremendous activist and artist and an inspiration for people worldwide. I have lost a great friend,” he said. It is a friendship that has endured, even in death, and Robin Williams dedicated the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 2005 to his best friend, Christopher Reeve.

“My battles with addiction definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact and the value of friends and family, how precious that is.”

The charity work of Robin Williams

Besides being an exceptional actor and comedian, Robin Williams was a very kind person with a big heart as evidenced in all the charity work he did throughout his life. Apart from Christopher and Dana Reeve’s Foundation, he used to donate great amount of money to many more organizations, such as:

  • Comic Relief for Homeless and Hurricane Katrina victims
  • Médecins Sans Frontières
  • Operation Smile
  • The Pediatric AIDS Association
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Make a Wish Foundation
  • Project Open Hand
  • Glide
  • The Gorilla Foundation
  • Seacology
  • River of Words
  • God’s Love We Deliver
  • Women at Ground Zero
  • Bread and Roses
  • Meridian Gallery
  • Mercury House
  • Season of Sharing
  • SMMoA
  • Muir Fest
  • USO – University Service Organizations, like Iraq and Afghanistan
  • University of California
  • San Francisco General Hospital Pediatrics
  • Windfall Foundation
  • Jude Children’s Research Hospital

He was also a great supporter of literacy and women’s rights. Moreover, he was a supporter of Juilliard’s drama students through the Robin Williams Sholarship which supported the tuition cost of a student each year.

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

From zero to hero

Robin Williams from zero to heroWhile he was studying, Robin made some extra money as a stand-up comedian in local comedy clubs, like Holy City Zoo and later in Boarding House and Old Spaghetti Factory, with quite a success, at first only once a week but later on, on a daily basis. He once said: “When I left school and couldn’t find acting work so I started going to clubs where you could do stand-up…I’ve always improvised and stand-up was a great relief. All of a sudden it was just me and the audience.”

Once on stage, he wasn’t Robin any more. He shared his experiences and all his thoughts and stories with his audience, delivering blow after blow of hilarity, without being misunderstood. Through a refreshing mixture of comedy and satire he managed to connect with his audiences and kept them engaged all the way through by going to their tables or bringing them on stage.

According to the comedian Steve Perl “he was a tornado, frenetic and ripping all over the stage…”

Women cheered like crazy and glorified him for every joke. Robin had a unique way to charm his audiences, dispel all negativity and take them on a journey with him into his special world. Yet, there was more to him than what he let others see. He could easily mask his feelings and let no one peak into his soul. There was a contradiction between his personal life and his life as a funnyman.

There is a saying that “Comedians are tortured, weighed down souls who tell jokes in an attempt to dispel their inner demons and fight off their depression”. This seems to be something 100% true in Robin Williams’ life as well.

“If women ran the world we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.”

The road to self-destruction

After his student years, Robin moved to Los Angeles where he took the road to self-destructionAlcohol, drugs, the hardships of life along with his demanding lifestyle dragged the young comedian into a vicious cycle of stress and depression.

He once said that coke was for him a place to hide. Drugs seemed to offer him a few moments of inner peace and relaxation and helped him find balance between his highly demanding work and his life. Robin had an intense, utterly manic style of stand-up comedy, he created frenetic monologues of personal stories and through his audience’s approval he tried to cure his weary and depressed soul.

Performing after a hung over made him feel paranoid on stage, but he said he never got on stage drunk or under the influence of drugs. According to him, he started using drugs and alcohol early in his career in order to cope with the stress of performing stand-up.

“Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.”

Robin knew very well that playing with drugs and alcohol was like playing with fire. But the pressure he felt didn’t let him rest. His fans had high expectations. They always wanted to see him laugh and smile, what even the most talented actor couldn’t.

People were so enchanted by his talent that forgot that Robin was just a human being with feelings, problems and a tough background. No one actually listened to him when he went on and on about his problems on stage, as if he was asking for help. He even spoke about alcohol and drugs and he often opened his performances with the following line: Cocaine is God’s way of telling you, you have too much money.”

“The human spirit is more powerful than any drug – and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter…”

Robin’s first marriage

Robin met his first wife Valerie Velardi in 1976 in San Francisco where he was working as a bartender, while starting a career in comedy, trying to make a living. She was taking a graduate degree at Mills College hoping to be a successful dance teacher in the future. They got married two years later in 1978.

Then, they moved together in Los Angeles, where he made his first appearance in a well-known Comedy Club that changed his life. The well-known film producer George Schlatter who sat among the audience was left speechless by his performance and decided they had to work together. “He’s one of the well-educated comedians we’ve ever had”, he said.

Later on, he got the leading role in the television series “Mork & Mindy”, a comedy about an alien and his human friend, that proved a great success and run from 1978 to 1982. He would ad-lib most of his lines adding some edgy humor here and there, and he got himself a fanclub.  When his earnings raised, he moved with his wife in a bigger house, got himself a new car – a Silver BMW – and many pets. They also started doing charity work together for the Human Dolphin Foundation.

“Carpe per diem – seize the check.”

The movies that scared him for life

Robin, as well as the people who believed in him and his talent, knew that despite that he never got a degree in acting, he was well capable of taking part in movies and successfully perform many different roles. He proved that throughout his acting career.

In fact, he was more than a talented comedian. He was a remarkable actor with great emotional intelligence capable of jumping from stand-up comedy right into the most serious role.

He never broke character and he preferred to take on roles of troubled characters, maybe because he could identify with them easier. Robin made his big-screen debut in a lead role playing the famous spinach-eating sailor in Popeye in 1980 and later on he stars as the leading character in The World According to Garp in 1981.

In 1990 he got a role in Awakenings where he portrayed a doctor who tries to help his catatonic patients. It is a heartwarming story that gives strength and courage to those who struggle with difficulties and teaches us to appreciate and live life. Robin was at the time dealing with his own issues and problems.

Performing and acting were for him two totally different things. As a comic one speaks faster than normal whereas an actor, has to speak slow and clear and give more emotion. With acting Robin had certain constrains. He couldn’t express himself the way he wanted and had to follow the script. Yet, he wanted to succeed as an actor and meet the audience’s expectations. He had to restrain himself in order to act. ”What do I like more? Sure, I like performing full out,” he once said.

“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.”

Putting a lot of effort into acting, and many movies later, he finally managed to win himself a place between Hollywood’s greatest actors, and get the starring role in director Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987. In this dramedy Robin proved that he was not only a great comedian, but also a great actor. He played the role of a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service who keeps the troops entertained during the Vietnam War. It was the perfect role for him, one that encapsulated his ability to improvise and made his comedic-talent stand out. He was an Oscar nominee for the first time for Best Actor in a Leading Role and winner of the Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Robin’s performance in Good Morning, Vietnam is seen as one of his finest, because in fact he played himself in the move – a comedian who tries to bring laugher and joy into people’s lives.

“Being in the same room with people and creating something together is a good thing.”

Robin Williams NominationsA few years later in the 90’s, and after rehab and a few scandals, Robin reached again the top. He took part in six successful movies.  Dead Poets Society in 1989 earned him his Second Oscar nomination. The movie tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. Robin himself was inspired from memories of a couple of his own teachers for this role. He read the scripts with great concentration and played the most serious roles without making fun of them. The Fisher King followed in 1991, and his performance as Parry – a homeless guy who saves a man from suicide – earned Robin Williams the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and his third Academy Award nomination. In 1993 he played the role of Mrs. Doubtfire, a divorced father who disguises himself as a middle-aged nanny in order to spend time with his children. He got into the role of the ex-husband very well at the time, since divorce was something that he went through a while ago in his personal life as well. He was so convincing that he earned the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor once again

“Reality: What a concept!”

In 1997 Robin won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting for his role as a therapist. He was nominated for eight more Oscar Awards. Robin then proved that he can act in serious and emotional roles and captivate the audience with his performance. Will Hunting works as a janitor at MIT and spends his free time at bars with his friends. When he is the only one who solves a difficult graduate-level math problem left on the hallway’s chalkboard, his talents are discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau. When Will gets arrested after a fight, Professor Lambeau decides to help the young man, if he agrees to get counseling with a therapist and deal with his problems. Robin Williams in the role of the therapist Sean Maguire manages to win the young man’s trust and helps him find direction in his life. Robin wanted a figure like that in his life as well, someone to help him and ease his pain.

Robin once said that he could see a bit of himself in every role he played. He liked getting into different characters and prove his acting-talent not only to the audience but to himself as well. He chose roles of troubled characters and his troubled past helped him convincingly perform every one of them.

In 1998 he stares in the film Patch Adams as a doctor who wants to treat the spirit as well as the body of his patients using humor and love as the best medicine. He showed the world that even the most serious scientists can have a sense of humor.

In 2002, Robin takes a break from comedy and stars in the psychological thriller Insomnia as a troubled Alaskan writer and key suspect in the murder of a local teenage girl. Robin took on a villainous role, and through a sinister performance, showed us his darkest side.

In the same year he stars in another psychological thriller, One hour photo as a lonely, amateur photographer who finds solace in his job. Despite loving his job so much he seeks meaning in his life. He gets obsessed with his favorite customers, keeps their pictures on his wall and tries to get into their lives. The story leads the audience to the desolated world of a photographer who desperately seeks for human company and tries to socialize using his profession as a tool.

Through the black comedy-drama film World’s greatest Dad in 2009Robin teaches us that what we want is not always what makes us happy. It’s a deep meaningful movie that spoke to Robins heart. After his suicide, rumors said that he learned the suicide technique from this movie. The protagonist’s son was found seated on the floor of this bedroom with a belt secured around his neck, and so was he.

It’s worth mentioning that Robin had a remarkable requirement for every film he did. The company hiring him, had to donate part of the earnings to the homeless and also had to hire a certain number of them and put them to work.

“In America they really do mythologize people when they die.”

His relationship with his fans

The fans that followed Robin from his very first steps as a comic, were used seeing him act in comedies and wanted the old, good, funny Robin back. But Robin never left his funny side behind and always made people laugh in every appearance he made. He thought himself to be the clown who played Hamlet. Still, it was hard for his fans to get used to him play in serious roles.

“I re – invented myself from comedy to do drama. You keep changing. So, it’s just another color of you get to paint with.”

A good actor can get into character and convincingly play every role he is called to. That was exactly what Robin wanted. He wanted to surprise his audience with his every role, either in a comedy or in drama. He loved being the criminal in the movies, what was less expected from a comedian. “I love playing characters like this because you ‘re no longer bound by the laws of likeability and the audience get a surprise attack. People think ‘Oh, it’s that nice man, he wouldn’t do anything awful.’ And then they realize… He’s a prick!”

“Sometimes you have to make a movie to make money.”

Everybody’s Got A Dark Side

Along with money came parties and hangovers. Publicity got into their lives for good and hit them hard. Because of his many appearances in television, Robin had his say on various taboo topics such as politics, drugs, death penalty, sex etc., what many people, especially parents who wanted to protect their children disapproved of.

Lies and rumors made their lives even harder. Rumor had it, that Robin was unfaithful to his wife. “It’s not the work but the social life that drained me”, he said.

In order to find some peace Robin made excessive use of drugs and alcohol and one thing led to another.

Exhaustion, both physical and emotional, got him. It has getting hard for his wife as well, who had to accept that she was now married to a public figure, and had to follow his lifestyle, accept criticism and be the subject of rumors while standing supportively by her husband’s side.

What’s worse is that some rumors had truth in them. Robin was now rich and women saw him thus differently. Under the influence of alcohol and drugs he gave in and did things that he would never think of doing sober.

All these scandals had a serious impact on his marriage. Valerie kept her calm in order to save her marriage. She loved him and trusted him. She didn’t make a scene when Robin went out with other women. She had in fact met many of them in person, saying they were wonderful. She was jealous only when she thought her marriage was in danger.

If she broke up with him, he would lose the most important person in his life. His life without his wife would be a disaster. Valerie loved him like no one else before. She was supportive and understanding and deeply concerned when he got wasted. Yet, things got worse and they started fighting. Robin was sinking deeper into self-destruction and was doing things that provoked her. Valerie was trying to keep only the good things, because when Robin was sober, he was his old good self.

He never loved money nor was he interested in living a rich life but he could no more control his actions and emotions. His marriage was suffering and so did his wife who watched all this in despair.

Robin and Valery gave a second chance to their marriage, and a few months later came in the world Robin’s firstborn childZachary “Zak” Pym Williams. That was an important moment in Robin’s life, when he realized that he wasn’t alone, he was responsible for his son’s life and that he couldn’t put him in danger. His son needed him.

“Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma.”

Fame can be fatal

It’s a common misconception that famous people have it all: beauty, success, money, independency. This perception is however most of the times totally false. Behind the cameras they are sad, their smiles are fake, there is a lot of stress and drugs. This is how many famous people end up, leaving us with the question, of why they who have everything, ruin their lives? What’s missing?

These people have the darkest secrets. They have plenty of money but no meaning in life. They bring joy and laugher in other peoples’ lives but can’t do the same for themselves. They don’t seek help and fall to pieces. They keep their desires and fears locked inside their souls, pretending to be strong.

Robin Williams once said that being famous and talented is not an easy job. Being a star is a 24-hour job, with no breaks, rest or anonymity. You can’t leave your face at the office. Once famous – always famous, even after your death.

So, it seems that even people with strong and balanced personalities cannot cope with pressure and constant public attention. Drugs and alcohol are their only solution.

“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.”

How drugs can kill 

In 1982, Robin’s friend, John Belushi died of cocaine and heroin overdose at the age of 33. The event shocked and brought Robin to his senses, since he was dealing with drug addiction at the time as well and they both followed similar lifestyles and careers. In fact, on the night of Belushi’s death, the two had been doing drugs together.

Robin though that Belushi had the “constitution of a bull” and that nothing bad could happen to him. But he was wrong. Comparing their lifestyles, he realized that the same could happen to him soon. His life was in danger.

A life without drugs

Belushi’s death and the birth of his son made Robin think about where his life was taking him. He decided that in order to live his dream, and raise his son as a good father, setting a good example, he had to stay away from drugs and any other dangerous lifestyle.

Robin Williams Life without drugsAs a substitute for his bad habits, Robin took up a new hobby, good for his mental and physical health: cycling. He even accumulated a  large bicycle collection. His friend and owner of San Francisco bicycle, Tony Tom, said: “He came shortly after John Belushi passed away from a drug overdose. He said: I’ll tell ya – cycling saved my life.”

His life seemed to take a positive turn with a happy ending. It took only two decades before he turned back to his bad habits.

He got out of drugs, but gained a new addiction to military games. He was an internet junkie, who played games online and rumor has it that he was posing as a six-year-old girl “Samantha” in chatrooms.  His favorite games were:

  • First person shooter games
  • Half – life
  • War Craft 3
  • Call of Duty
  • Battlestation Pacific

Robin knew that he had to be careful with videogames. He was aware that people have even committed suicide when their online character was killed. As a weak person who suffered from depression, he could easily get sucked in the game world. He played alone in his room in front of his screen battling not only enemies but also with his thoughts. That was a bad combination for sure. Some even blamed videogames for his death.

In the study Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths. A Two-Year Longitudinal Study, about the relation between gaming and psychology Dr. Douglas Gentile of State University says: “I was expecting to find that the depression let to gaming. But we found the opposite in that study. The depression seemed to follow the gaming. As kids became addicted, then their depression seemed to get worse. And, as they stopped being addicted, the depression seemed to lift.” In Robin’s case those two went hand in hand, since he was already suffering from depression. “I think it’s truly co morbid. This means when two medical conditions are intertwined.” Gaming addiction and phycological problems coexist. People Believe that gaming will free them from their suffering but it makes it worse.

“The human spirit is more powerful than any drug – and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These arethe things that matter.”

New demons in his life

Once people recovering from addiction go back to normal life, they’re likely to start using again, unless they take action to avoid their triggers.

Once Robin remained drug-free he thought his problems were over but rumors and scandals turned his life upside down once again. His affair with Michelle Tish Carter became public when she sued the actor and comedian for many million dollars, alleging that he gave her herpes during their relationship. This rumor was never proven true but damaged his personal life and career. Valerie and Robin divorced two years later in 1988. Robin made the following comment on his divorce: “Sure I’m happy about the movie, but right now I’m moving through my personal life like a hemophiliac in a razor factory.”

Robin hadn’t been fair to the only person that loved him unconditionally and gave him everything. Why do we hurt those we love the most?

Robin had an unstable personality, he had serious psychological problems and wasn’t himself at the time. He was aware of the damage he made to himself and his family but he couldn’t fight the sorrow and pain carved deep into his soul. His fans not knowing what he went through could not forgive him either.

He’d hurt everyone he loved. Guilt and regrets were a heavy load that he carried even on stage. He did his job right, but it wasn’t the same any more. Later, that very same year, Robin decided to start therapy.

“When I was growing up they used to say, “Robin, drugs can kill you.” Now that I’m 58 my doctor’s telling me, “Robin, you need drugs to live.” I realize now that my doctor is also my dealer.”

Robin’s second marriage

Robin remained on friendly terms with his ex-wife whilst he embarked on a relationship with Zak’s nanny, Marsha Garces, who had been living with them since 1984. Robin was once again happy. They married in 1989 when Marsha was pregnant with their daughter, and Robin’s second childZelda. In 1991 came in the world Robin’s third and last child, Cody Alan Williams.

After all these difficulties he’d been through, rehab, divorce, lawsuit, and close friends’ deaths, Robin finally stood on his own feet and launched to the top of the tabloids once again.

In 1993 he took a break from the spotlight, taking his family on a relaxing holiday in an Italian villa, with Marca being in charge.

Marca was well aware of Robins fragile mental state and always tried to protect him from the pressure of fame. She stood always by his side, gave him advise on his roles and watched his every step.

She is the only person who is brutally honest with me. Most people would prefer to tell me what they think I want to hear. Not Marsha. She refuses to let me recycle old shtick just because it works. It’s vital to have someone who is determined to see that I grow as an actor,” he said.

“I never performed on drugs. That’d be stupid. It’s the same thing with athletes. They can’t perform when they have cocaine problems.”

The death of his loved ones

In 2001 Robin’s mother passed away and painful childhood memories came on the surface. He considered the death of his parents  to be the saddest event of his life. He was left once again alone, just like when he was little, with the complaint that he never felt loved as a child nor really get to know the meaning of the words “family”, “care” and “motherly love”.

He wished he were close with his brothers to share the pain and grief with. He got all the love of the world from his fans, he felt true joy on stage when he made his audience laugh and he finally got the parental attention he needed in a big way…but he didn’t have his mother anymore.

Few years later in 2004, his best friend Christopher Reeve died at 52 from a sudden heart attack. It came as a shock to him, just like Belushi’s death years back. For the years to follow, the grief run deep.

From then onwards he reduced his stand-up comedy appearances and played only in dramas, roles of murderers and criminals. He spoke slowly and wearily in interviews, he didn’t make jokes and hardly ever smiled.

“I couldn’t imagine living the way I used to live. Now people come up to me from the drug days and go, ‘Hi, remember me?’ And I’m going, ‘No, did I have sex with you? Did I take a dump in your tool box?’”

Star in his own life

Alcohol found its way into his life once again. He thought it was the solution to all of life’s problems, that it would take the lonely and frightening thoughts away.

What was his deepest fear?

Robin was a huge star. His deepest fear was maybe dealing with fans’ expectations. People tend to expect more from those who have been successful. He felt a large pressurefrom his fanclub. He thought they don’t forgive mistakes, nor do they accept true feelings and troubles coming from a comedian.

Drugs and alcohol had been a setback in his life before but seemed his only way out. He knew his fans would find out eventually and that he would let them down.

Robin knew that drugs and alcohol could kill him. Things could turn worse this time.

His relapse into his bad habits turned his second marriage upside down as well. In 2006, after family intervention, Robin checked himself into Oregon’s Hazelden Springbrook treatment center for two months.  He won the battle to stay sober but he couldn’t win his wife back. Even though Marsha has been a pillar of strength for him, she filed for divorce two years later.

“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

Robin’s third and last marriage

Robin’s second divorce left him broke and devastated. He made sure his children were properly provided for and paid his ex-wives generous alimony, but he soon started running out of cash.

During that period of time Robin stared in very few movies. When his bad mood lifted in 2008, he decided to get on stage again and pick up where he left of. He performed stand-up comedy shows to make money and made fun out of it like he did with all his other problems in the past. It is said that his struggle with his finances was so big that he had to sell off almost every bicycle in his collection.

His friend Billy Cristal stated: “Over the last couple of years and the pin that he’s gone through, his brain is the one thing that’s kept him buoyant… he needs the stand-up in a different way than he did before. It’s still a safe place for him to be… he can talk about things and make himself feel better…”

Over that time period Robin met Susan Schneider – a 15 years younger than him woman – and got married for the third time in 2011. His children had grown up and chosen their own paths. Zelda was acting in small productions, Zak was married and Cody was doing music production.

The couple lived in Robin’s mother house, they loved doing things together such as kayaking, riding bikes and walking their dogs. Robin was trying to fill his life with as many beautiful moments as possible.

“You don’t know about real loss because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself.”

25 of Robin Williams’ Funniest Jokes

  1. If it’s the Psychic Network, why do they need a phone number?
  2. Who the fuck came with the idea of polygamy?! Who was having a marriage going, ‘My one marriage isn’t going too well, I’d like to double down.’?
  3. God gave men both a penis and a brain but, unfortunately, not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.
  4. The Chinese make everything! Even the ‘Free Tibet’ stickers.
  5. Do you think God gets stoned? I think so…Look at the platypus.
  6. Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.
  7. I wonder what chairs think about all day: ‘Oh, here comes another asshole.’
  8. Never pick a fight with an ugly person; they’ve got nothing to lose.
  9. And Honda has a car now that’ll park itself. I’m like, ‘Where were you when I was drinking?!’
  10. People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House.
  11. I want to thank my father…the man who, when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said,: ‘Wonderful, just have a backup profession like welding.’ Thank you.
  12. We had gay burglars the other night; they broke in and rearranged the furniture.
  13. You could talk about same-sex marriage but people who have been married say ‘It’s the same sex all the time.’
  14. Being a functioning alcoholic is kind of like being a paraplegic lap dancer – you can do it, just not as well as the others, really.
  15. On the Immaculate Conception: The night that Mary said to Joe, ‘Joe, I’m pregnant,’ and Joe went, ‘Holy Mother of God!’ And she went, ‘You’re right! Aw, Jesus Christ, what a great name, Joe! That is so much better than Schmul! Way to go! I love you, Joe!’
  16. If women ran the world, we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every twenty-eight days.
  17. ‘I guess I should talk for a moment about the very serious subject of schizophrenia…’ ‘No, he doesn’t!’ ‘Shut up, let him talk!’
  18. If on your tax form it says, ‘$50,000 for snacks’, MAYDAY! You ‘ve got yourself a cocaine problem.
  19. Giving people tax rebates and then saying the economy is sound because they might spend it is like saying fat people are healthy because they might exercise.
  20. I walked into my son’s room the other day and he’s got four screens going at the same time. He’s watching a movie on one screen, playing a game on another, downloading something on this one, texting on that one… People say, ‘He’s got ADHD.’ Fuck that, he’s multitasking!
  21. “Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?”
  22. “Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. Some get it as a graduation gift.”
  23. “I don’t care. I clawed my way to the middle and I fucked my way down.”
  24. “In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say: ‘Stop, or I’ll say stop again.’”
  25. “A lot of people thought Scarfacewas over the top. Anyone who had done a pound of Peruvian blow knows that is documentary.”
  26. “Why do you think there’s not so much comedy in Germany? Did you ever think you killed all the funny people?”
  27. Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.
  28. We Americans, we’re a simple people . . . but piss us off, and we’ll bomb your cities.
  29. Thank you for the standing ovations! We had the orgasm up front. Let’s have a cigarette, let’s relax.
  30. Ah, yes, divorce … from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.
  31. The moment the Pope dies, they take him through St. Peter’s Basilica, and fifty thousand cell phones are like [pantomimes the clicking sounds of camera phones] And I’m sure that was his last wish. “When I die, I want to be a screensaver.”
  32. When the media ask George W. Bush a question, he answers, ‘Can I use a lifeline?’
  33. Texting and driving at the same time is like jerking off and juggling at the same time. Too many balls in the air, if you catch my drift.
  34. When I was growing up they used to say, “Robin, drugs can kill you.” Now that I’m 58 my doctor’s telling me, “Robin, you need drugs to live.” I realize now that my doctor is also my dealer…
  35. People like to great New Yorkers: “Have a nice day, asshole!” “Fuck you, my friend! Enjoy your day!”
  36. Taking Viagra after open heart surgery is like a Civil War re-enactment with live ammo. Not good.
  37. I love the guys who say “I watch NASCAR for the racing.” Yeah, and I watch porn for the acting. You LIAR!
  38. I think that after you get married a third time you have to give up a body part. Larry King would just be a head on a fucking stick.
  39. It’s interesting when you see a girl with a bolt through her tongue. Why did you do that? To enahthe the thekthual thtimulathon. “Nothing drives my boyfriend crazy like the feel of cold steel on his hot rock.”
  40. I had sex with a prostitute when I was 21, I was so bad, she gave me a refund.
  41. Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students.
  42. I’ve actually gone to the zoo and had monkeys shout to me from their cages, “I’m in here when you’re walking around like that?”
  43. “The Second Amendment: It says you have the right to bear arms, or the right to arm bears, whatever the hell you want to do!”
  44. “If women ran the world we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.”
  45. “The definition of pornography is quite simple. Erotic is using a feather, pornography is using the entire chicken.”
  46. “I think God made babies cute so we don’t eat them.”
  47. “I thought lacrosse was what you find in la church.”
  48. “If you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.”
  49. “Ballets: men wearing pants so tight you can tell what religion they are.”
  50. “Cricket is basically baseball on Valium.”

“This girl you met, she isn’t perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.”

The final years

In the few months before his death Robin wasn’t in his best emotional and physical state. He slept for over 18 hours a day, felt constantly tired, had no appetite and was very distant. He kept the curtains closed all day to avoid the light.

He looked painfully thin. His face looked wrinkled and tired, his body shrunk in size. He couldn’t care less for his appearance. Depression was taking over. Then, in 2009 Robin was diagnosed with serious heart disease problems and underwent a bypass surgery in Ohio.

Robin seemed like a different man. His dark secret had been revealed. His exhaustion was evident. He couldn’t even fake a smile like he used to.

“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”

Why the change?

Robin sparked concern with his gaunt and exhausted appearance. Several questions arose: What made him look like this? When did his troubles start? Why nobody helped him? Why didn’t he seek help?

It was already too late. Drugs and alcohol took its toll on his life. His financial difficulties made it worse. The deaths of his loved ones – his parents’ and Christopher’s – left a deep scar in his heart and his two failed marriages made him feel desolate. His spirits sank lower and lower.

The money and glory of the past meant nothing for him, they never brought him peace. It may be he never realized how much people loved him.

“You treat a disease, YOU WIN, you lose. You treat a person, I’ll guarantee you’ll win.”

The death of a star

“This is the morning I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.” – Susan Schneider, Robin Williams’ 3rd wife said.

It was a tragic day. The news of his death on August 11, 2014 came as a huge shock. The Oscar-winning actor was found dead at his home in Tiburon, San Francisco. It was a tragic and sudden loss that stunned his fans and anyone who loved him.

He was only 63 years old. He may have gone forever, but no one will forget the twinkle in his eyes, his utterly genuine smile and his  manic onstage energy. He gave smiles and laughter so freely to millions of people around the world and touched every element of the human spirit in a remarkable range of performances.

His death was attributed to asphyxia caused by hanging. Yet, the truth of what made him give an end to his life remains unknown. Could it be prevented?  He was a man with an acute fear of abandonment, suffering as he once admitted from the “Love me Syndrome”, all of which derived from his lonely background and weary soul.

Robin suffered from a form of dementia called Lewy Body Disease (LBD). According to scientific research: “DLB is the second most common neurodegenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s and causes fluctuations in mental status, hallucinations and impairment of motor function.” Three months prior to his death he was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and was under heavy medication that might have affected his mental state.

It is sad that he never took the decision to seek counseling to help cope with Parkinson’s disease. More than half of the patients suffer from clinical depression that drastically changes their lives and affects them more than any other symptom.

The night before his suicide Robin stuffed his collection of watches into a sock out of fear they would get stolen, then he called his wife Susan to tell her he bought some magazines for her, went back home and locked himself in his room. That was the last time his wife saw him, since they were sleeping in separate bedrooms. He was found the next morning with a belt around his neck and cut wrists. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

The funeral was an Episcopalian service at Monte’s Chapel of the Hills a funeral home in California. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the San Francisco Bay. After his death everyone was trying in vain to understand what drove him to suicide.

“A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in Heaven. Then we’ll all be together forever.”

Why he did it

What made him give an end to his life? Why was he so miserable? He had achieved everything one can dream of in his carrier. He was a successful Oscar-winning actor. His whole carrier was an adventure, a journey of improvisation.

He was living in his own reality. His life was a movie about depression. The world’s greatest funnyman who gave smiles, love and happiness to people had nothing of these as a child. He was a scared, shy and lonely child that never got love or attention from his family. No money could bring his lost childhood back.

The comedy world lost one of its best that day. Yet, one who’s leaving a great legacy behind can never truly die. He will always be remembered for his jokes and his stories. His soul resting in peace, at last, will now be spreading joy and laughter in heaven.

Find the best collection of Robin William’s quotes here

Quotes of Robin Williams

Below, you will be able to be inspired by Robin Williams’s greatest quotes:

We ‘ve had cloning in the South for years. It’s called cousins.
What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.
The improv, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does, it’s like open – field running.
Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.
For me, comedy starts as a spew, a kind of explosion,, and then you sculpt it from there, If at all. It comes out of a deeper, darker side. Maybe it comes from anger, because I’m outrages by cruel absurdities, the hypocrisy that exists everywhere, even within yourself. Where it’s hardest to see.
If heaven exists, to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing.
Comedy is acting out optimism.
Being in the same room with people and creating something together is a good thing.
If it’s the physic network why do they need a phone number?
Reality: What a concept!
In America they really do mythologise people when they die.
Carpe per diem – seize the check.
You can start any ‘monty python’ routine and peopl finish it for you. Everyone knows it like short hand.
Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party.
The statue of liberty  is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?’
When Jonathan Winters died, it was like, ‘Oh, man!’ I knew he was frail, but I always thought he was going to last longer. I knew him as being really funny, but at the same time, he had a dark side.
We had gay burglars the other night. They broke in and rearranged the furniture.
My mother’s idea of natural childbirth was giving birth without makeup. She was hyper – positive – the world is a wonderful place, rainbows and unicorns. If you said anything contrary to her, you were basically exiled.
Acting is different from stand-up. It gives you this ability to enter into another character, to create another person.
When you look at Prince Charles, don’t you think that someone in the Royal family knew someone in  the Royal family?
I bought one of the first Nintendo systems and brought that home, and we were playing ‘ Legend of  Zelda’ at the time, and it was addicting, and I was playing it for hours and hours and hours.
I only ever play Vegas one night at a time. It’s a hideous, gaudy place; it may not be the end of the world per see, but you can certainly see it from there.
Performing comedy in San Francisco to begin with is pretty wild. You ‘ve got to – you ‘ve got the human game preserve to play off of. And it’s a lot of  great characters everywhere. You work of that, and then you play the rooms, and eventually you get to a point where you ‘re playing a club that is a comedy club, with other comics.
I started going comedy because that was the only stage that I could find. It was the pure idea of being on stage. That was the only thing that interested me, along with learning the craft and working, and just being in productions with people.
I write on big yellow legal pads – ideas in outline form when I’m going stand- up and stuff. It’s vivid that way. I can’t type it into an Ipad – I think that would put a filter into the process.
I like my wine like my women – ready to pass out.
The idea of having a steady job is appealing.
I basically started performing for my mother, going, ‘Love me!’ What drives you to perform is the need for that primal connection. When I was little,my mother was funny with me, and I started to be charming and funny for her, and I learned that by being entertaining, you make a connection with another person.
I have a difficult time doing an Irish accent; Even now, it kind of fades slowly into Scottish.
The essential truth is that sometimes you ‘re worried that they ‘ll find out it’s a fluke, that you don’t really have it. You ‘ve lost the muse or – the worst dread – you never had it at all. I went through all that madness early on.
Sometimes over things that I did, movies that didn’t turn out very well – you go. ‘Why did you do that?’ But in the end, I can’t regret them because I met amazing people. There was always something that was worth it.
The second amendment says we have the right to bear arms, not to bear artillery.
The bad things about being a famous comedian is that every now and then  someone approaches me to tell an old joke. Don’t tell me jokes – I have that. People also say the weirdest things, sometimes sarcastic things, and even evil things. They like to provoke to get a reaction.
Cricket is basically baseball on valium.
A woman would never make a nuclear bomb.They would never make a weapon that kills – no, no. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while.
Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.
I think it’s great  when stories are dark and strange and weirdly personal.
I don’t have a college degree, and my father didn’t have a college degree, so when my son, Zachary, graduated from college, I said, ‘My boy’s got learnin’!’
I have an idea for a movie called ‘The walken dead’ which is about a town where, instead of Zombies, everyone become Chris walken.
Gentiles are people who eat mayonnaise for no reason.
Tweets? That stuff kills conversation. And people taking pictures with their phone or recording you, sometimes surreptitiously, is creepy. They come up and just start talking to you, and you can see the red light on their phone.
Divorce is expensive.I used to joke they were going to call it ‘all the money,’ but they changed it to ‘alimony.’ It’s ripping your heart out through your wallet.
I believe Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was…A large arctic region covered with ice.
Look at the walls of Pompeii. That’s what got the internet started.
In the process of looking for comedy, you have to be deeply honest. And in doing that, you ‘ll find out here’s the other side. You ‘ll be  looking under the rock occasionally for the laughter.
You ‘ll notice  that Nancy Reagan never drinks water when Ronnie speaks.
I do believe in love; It’s wonderful – especially love third  time around, it’s even more precious; It’s kind of amazing.
The Russians love Brooke Shields because her eyebrows remidn them of Leonid Brezhnew.
I don’t do well with snakes and I can’t dance.
When the media ask George W. Bush a question, he answers, ‘can I use a lifeline?’
In ‘the secret agent,’ it’s basically a character that was admired by Theodore Kaczynski, which is some fan mail you don’t really want to open. This is a man who is a Chemist and who specializes in making bombs and despises humanity.
Politics is so personal,vicious and immediate, how are you going to get  anything done? Even the  local politics where I live have gotten so ugly.
One of my favorite actors of all time,although he doesn’t necessarily play Villains, is Peter Lorre.
Okra is the closest thing to Nylon I’ve ever eaten. It’s like they bred cotton with a green bean. Okra, tastes like snot. The more you cook it, the more it turns into string.
The ‘Aladdin’ thing – that’s not work;  That’s just fun. Three days in the recording studio going mad,then the animators, do all the work. Not a bad way to cash a large check, my friend.
With film roles,it just has to be a character either I haven’t done before, or a role with somebody really interesting or with an interesting person or group of people.
I’ve never been asked to appear on I’m a celebrity… get me out of here!,’ so I guess I mustn’t be on the professional skids just yet.
Sometimes you have to make a movie to make money.
From the point of view of being in the public radar, comedians have less problems than other actors. Action movie stars like Stallone or Schwarzenegger usually attract the more aggressive fans.
Winning an Oscar  is an honor, but, between you and me, it does not make things easier.
I loved school, maybe too much,really. I was summa cum laude in High School. I was driven that way.
My style is bad white – boy dancing. I can do swing a little bit,but nothing beyond that. My solo dancing is sad. I use my arms, badly.
I was only leading man for a  minute; Now I’m a  character actor.
I loved running, but all of a sudden everything hurt so much. I started cycling when Zelda was born.
There’s a show in America where all these people compete with ferrets, and they don’t even do anything. They basically just hold them up, and if they don’t bite you, they might win.
I knew Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were really talented. As actors, they were both studly young men, and they had great writers’ chops.
Having George W. Bush giving a lecture on business ethics is like having a leper give you a facial, it just doesn’t work!
You have this idea that you’d better keep working otherwise people will forget. And that was dangerous.

Find out more about your personality by taking Motto Cosmos’ Personality Test here


Filmography of Robin Williams


Title Year Role Director(s)
Can I Do It… ‘Til I Need Glasses? 1977 Lawyer
Man with Tooth Ache
I. Robert Levy
Popeye 1980 Popeye Robert Altman
The World According to Garp 1982 T.S. Garp George Roy Hill
The Survivors 1983 Donald Quinelle Michael Ritchie
Moscow on the Hudson 1984 Vladimir Ivanov Paul Mazursky
The Best of Times 1986 Jack Dundee Roger Spottiswoode
Club Paradise Jack Moniker Harold Ramis
Seize the Day Tommy Wilhelm Fielder Cook
Good Morning, Vietnam 1987 Adrian Cronauer Barry Levinson
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1988 King of the Moon Terry Gilliam
Rabbit Earst: Pecos Bill Narrator (voice) Tim Raglin
Portrait of a White Marriage Air Conditioning Salesman Harry Shearer
Dead Poets Society 1989 John Keating Peter Weir
Cadillac Man 1990 Joey O’Brien Roger Donaldson
Awakenings Dr. Malcolm Sayer Penny Marshall
Shakes the Clown 1991 Mime Class Instructor Bobcat Goldthwait
Dead Again Doctor Cozy Carlisle Kenneth Branagh
The Fisher King Henry “Parry” Sagan Terry Gilliam
Hook Peter Banning / Peter Pan Steven Spielberg
FernGully: The Last Rainforest 1992 Batty Koda (voice) Bill Kroyer
The Timekeeper The Timekeeper (voice)  
Aladdin Genie / Peddler (voices) Ron Clements
John Musker
Toys Leslie Zevo Barry Levinson
Mrs. Doubtfire 1993 Daniel Hillard / Euphegenia Doubtfire Chris Columbus
Being Human 1994 Hector Bill Forsyth
In Search of Dr. Seuss The Father Vincent Paterson
Nine Months 1995 Dr. Kosevich Chris Columbus
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt Beeban Kidron
Jumanji Alan Parrish Joe Johnston
The Birdcage 1996 Armand Goldman Mike Nichols
Jack Jack Powell Francis Ford Coppola
Aladdin and the King of Thieves Genie (voice) Tad Stones
The Secret Agent Assassin Christopher Hampton
Hamlet Osric Kenneth Branagh
Fathers’ Day 1997 Dale Putley Ivan Reitman
Deconstructing Harry Mel Woody Allen
Flubber Professor Philip Brainard Les Mayfield
Good Will Hunting Sean Maguire Gus Van Sant
What Dreams May Come 1998 Chris Nielsen Vincent Ward
Patch Adams Patch Adams Tom Shadyac
Jakob the Liar 1999 Jakob Heym / Narrator Peter Kassovitz
Bicentennial Man Andrew Martin Chris Columbus
Get Bruce Himself Andrew J. Kuehn
A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001 Dr. Know (voice) Steven Spielberg
The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch 2002 Hans Hänkie Eric Idle
One Hour Photo Seymour “Sy” Parrish Mark Romanek
Death to Smoochy “Rainbow” Randolph Smiley Danny DeVito
Insomnia Walter Finch Christopher Nolan
The Final Cut 2004 Alan W. Hakman Omar Naim
House of D Pappass David Duchovny
Noel Charlie Boyd / The Priest Chazz Palminteri
Robots 2005 Fender (voice) Chris Wedge
The Big White Paul Barnell Mark Mylod
The Aristocrats Himself Penn Jillette
Paul Provenza
The Night Listener 2006 Gabriel Noone Patrick Stettner
RV Bob Munro Barry Sonnenfeld
Everyone’s Hero Napoleon Cross (voice) Christopher Reeve
Daniel St. Pierre
Colin Brady
Man of the Year Tom Dobbs Barry Levinson
Happy Feet Ramon / Lovelace (voices) George Miller
Night at the Museum Theodore Roosevelt Shawn Levy
License to Wed 2007 Reverend Frank Ken Kwapis
August Rush Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace Kirsten Sheridan
World’s Greatest Dad 2009 Lance Clayton Bobcat Goldthwait
Shrink Jack Holden Jonas Pate
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Theodore Roosevelt Shawn Levy
Old Dogs Dan Rayburn Walt Becker
Happy Feet Two 2011 Ramon / Lovelace (voices) George Miller
The Big Wedding 2013 Father Monighan Justin Zackham
The Butler Dwight D. Eisenhower Lee Daniels
The Face of Love Roger Arie Posin
Boulevard 2014 Nolan Mack Dito Montiel
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Henry Altmann Phil Alden Robinson
A Merry Friggin’ Christmas Mitch Tristram Shapeero
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Theodore Roosevelt / Garuda Artifact Shawn Levy
Absolutely Anything 2015 Dennis the Dog (voice) Terry Jones


Year Title Role Notes
1977 Sorority ’62   TV Pilot
The Richard Pryor Show Various characters 2 episodes
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In    
Eight Is Enough   Episode: “The Return of Auntie V”
1978 America 2-Night Jason Shine 2 episodes
Happy Days Mork Episode: “My Favorite Orkan”
1978–82 Mork & Mindy 92 episodes
1979 Happy Days Episode: “Mork Returns”
Out of the Blue Episode: “Random’s Arrival”
1981–2010 Saturday Night Live Himself 5 episodes; 4 as host, 1 as guest
1982 E.T. and Friends: Magical Movie Visitors Host / various characters TV special
Faerie Tale Theatre Frog / Prince Robin Episode: “Tale of the Frog Prince”
SCTV Network Various Episode: “Jane Eyrehead”
1982-83 Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour Mork (voice) 26 Episodes
1984 Pryor’s Place Gaby Episode: “Sax Education”
1987 Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin Various characters TV special (comedy); Williams won Emmy award [34]
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam Baby-san (voice) Documentary
1990 The Earth Day Special Everyman  
1990–2012 Sesame Street Himself 6 episodes
1991 Big Bird’s Birthday Celebration Sesame Street special
A Wish for Wings That Work The Kiwi (voice) Credited as Sudy Nim
1992–94 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 2 episodes
1994 Homicide: Life on the Street Robert Ellison Episode: “Bop Gun”
1997 Friends Tomas Uncredited
Episode: “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion
1998 One Saturday Morning Genie 2 episodes
1999 L.A. Doctors Hugo Kinsley Episode: “Just Duet”
2000 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Himself Season 3, episode 9 (Guest star)
2003 Freedom: A History of Us Josiah Quincy
Ulysses S. Grant
Missouri farmer
Wilbur Wright
Orville Wright
4 episodes
Life with Bonnie Kevin Powalski Episode: “Psychic”
2006 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Himself Episode: “The DeAeth Family”
Mind of Mencia Episode: “That’s F**king Historical”
Blue’s Clues “Behind the Clues: 10 Years of Blue” Blue’s Clues special[35]
2008 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Merritt Rook Episode: “Authority
2009 SpongeBob SquarePants Himself Episode: “SpongeBob’s Truth or Square
2012 Wilfred Dr. Eddy / Himself Episode: “Progress”
Louie Himself Episode: “Barney/Never”
2013–14 The Crazy Ones Simon Roberts 22 episodes

Video games

Year Title Voice role
1997 Disney’s Math Quest: Aladdin Genie


Video recordings



Award Wins Nominations
Academy Awards 1 4
Grammy Awards 4 6
Emmy Awards 3 7
BAFTA Awards 0 2
Golden Globe Awards 6 12
MTV Movie Awards 2 6
SAG Awards 2 4


Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam Best Actor Nominated [1]
1989 Dead Poets Society Best Actor Nominated [2]
1991 The Fisher King Best Actor Nominated [3]
1997 Good Will Hunting Best Supporting Actor Won [4][5]

BAFTA Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1988 Good Morning, Vietnam Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated [6]
1990 Dead Poets Society Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated [7]

Golden Globe Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1979 Mork & Mindy Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Won [8]
1980 Mork & Mindy Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated [8]
1985 Moscow on the Hudson Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated [8]
1988 Good Morning, Vietnam Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Won [8]
1990 Dead Poets Society Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated [8]
1991 Awakenings Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated [8]
1992 The Fisher King Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Won [8]
1993 Aladdin Special Award for Vocal Work Won [8]
1994 Mrs. Doubtfire Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Won [8]
1998 Good Will Hunting Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated [8]
1999 Patch Adams Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated [8]
2005 N/A Cecil B. DeMille Award Won [8]

Grammy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1980 Reality…What a Concept Best Comedy Album Won  
1980 Himself Best New Artist Nominated  
1984 Throbbing Python of Love Best Comedy Album Nominated  
1988 A Night at the Met Best Comedy Album Won  
1989 Good Morning, Vietnam Best Comedy Album Won  
2003 Robin Williams Live – 2002 Best Comedy Album Won  
2011 Weapons of Self Destruction Best Comedy Album Nominated  

Kids’ Choice Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1992 Hook Favorite Movie Actor Won  
1994 Mrs. Doubtfire Favorite Movie Actor Won  
1996 Jumanji Favorite Movie Actor Nominated  
1997 Jack Favorite Movie Actor Nominated  
1998 Flubber Favorite Movie Actor Nominated  
2000 Bicentennial Man Favorite Movie Actor Nominated  
2006 Robots Favorite Voice from an Animated Feature Nominated  

MTV Movie Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1992 The Fisher King Best Male Performance Nominated  
1993 Aladdin Best Comedic Performance Won  
1994 Mrs. Doubtfire Best Comedic Performance Won  
1994 Mrs. Doubtfire Best Male Performance Nominated  
1997 The Birdcage Best Comedic Performance Nominated  
1997 The Birdcage Best On-Screen Duo (shared with Nathan Lane) Nominated  

Online Film & Television Association Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1998 Good Will Hunting Best Supporting Actor Nominated  
2003 One Hour Photo Best Actor Nominated  
2007 Happy Feet Best Voice-Over Performance Nominated  

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1979 Mork & Mindy Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated [9]
1987 Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program Won [10]
1988 ABC Presents A Royal Gala Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program Won [11]
1994 Homicide: Life on the Streets Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Nominated [12]
1996 Comic Relief VII Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (shared with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg) Nominated  
2003 Robin Williams: Live on Broadway Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program and Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program Nominated  
2008 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Nominated [13]
2010 Robin Williams: Weapons Of Self Destruction Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special Nominated [14]

Golden Raspberry Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
2000 Jakob the Liar Worst Actor Nominated  
2000 Bicentennial Man Worst Actor Nominated  
2003 Death to Smoochy Worst Supporting Actor Nominated  

Satellite Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1998 Good Will Hunting Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated [15]
1999 Patch Adams Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated  
2003 One Hour Photo Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated  

Saturn Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1992 The Fisher King Saturn Award for Best Actor Nominated  
1993 Toys Saturn Award for Best Actor Nominated  
1993 Aladdin Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor Won  
1996 Jumanji Saturn Award for Best Actor Nominated  
2003 Insomnia Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated  
2003 One Hour Photo Saturn Award for Best Actor Won  

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1997 The Birdcage Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Won [16]
1998 Good Will Hunting Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Won [17]
1998 Good Will Hunting Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [17]
2014 The Butler Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [18]

Miscellaneous awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1990 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated [1]
1990 Dead Poets Society Jupiter Award for Best International Actor Won  
1990 Dead Poets Society David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor Nominated  
1991 Awakenings National Board of Review Award for Best Actor (shared with Robert De Niro) Won  
1991 Awakenings Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Nominated  
1998 Good Will Hunting Awards Circuit Community Award for Best Supporting Actor Won  
2003 One Hour Photo Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Nominated  
2003 One Hour Photo Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Nominated  
2003 One Hour Photo Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor Nominated  
2006 Robots Visual Effects Society Award Outstanding Performance by an Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture Nominated  
2014 The Butler Acapulco Black Film Festival Nominated  
2014 The Crazy Ones Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated  

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