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Michelangelo - Creativity and ArtMichelangelo - Creativity and Art


Michelangelo (1475-1564)


Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet

Rival of Leonardo da Vinci.


His most famous works of art are...

  • his nude statue of David (sculpted from 1501 to 1504 and 17 feet, or 5.17 m, high).
  • his painting in Rome’s Sistine Chapel with nine scenes from the Bible’s book of Genesis on the ceiling (painted 1508-12), and the Last Judgement (1535-41) on the altar wall.


Why was he so creative?

 Michelangelo - Creativity and Art

1. Inspiration

Michelangelo was:

  • a man of great passion and emotion.
  • inspired by the pursuit of excellence and beauty.

He particularly emphasized male beauty (as illustrated by David, pictured right,  showing the biblical king David just before his battle with Goliath).

Art was always much more important to him than money.


2. Spirituality


  • was driven by his religious belief and passion for art.
  • thought that great art came from the mind and the soul.
  • believed that the image of his sculptural subjects (like the statue of David) was already in the block of stone and just waiting for him to uncover it.

His motto was

“They raise our intellect to heaven” (referring to painting, sculpture and architecture).


3. Learning

He learned from his:

Michelangelo - Creativity and Art

a) great rival Leonardo da Vinci (pictured right) 

(particularly his ability to draw figures in triangles, a technique Michelangelo used in his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling).


b) continual quest for perfection and improvement 

(helped by his incredible memory for works of art).

“I am still learning”, he always said.


4. Determination and hard work

On the road to success, he showed


a) perseverance

He constantly battled against depression and criticism.

His naked figures on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, were heavily criticized as obscene by some people in the Catholic Church.

After his death the naughty bits were covered up!

 Michelangelo - Creativity and Art

b) stamina

His great works took several years of exhausting work with long hours and little sleep.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling was particularly arduous, giving him neck and back trouble for the rest of his life.

He stood on scaffolding to paint it, not laying down as is sometimes believed.

Pictured right is the face of God on the ceiling.


c) focus

He had no friends and totally dedicated himself to the ceiling’s completion, suffering eye and throat damage from drippings of wet plaster onto his face.


“I toil harder than any man, whoever was, unwell and with enormous effort; and yet I have the patience to reach the desired end”, he said in 1512.

 Michelangelo - Creativity and Art

5. Revolutionary

Michelangelo (pictured right aged 60) broke with convention and painted directly onto the Sistine Chapel ceiling with sweeping brush strokes rather than copying from a full-sized drawing.

This is tricky because the plaster had to be damp so that the paint did not sink into it.

Creativity for him meant:


a) challenging conventional wisdom and people in authority (even the Pope)

“Criticize by creating”, he said.


b) originality

He attacked copiers of other people’s work, saying

“He who walks in the footsteps of another is not likely to walk before him”.


6. Talent and self-motivation

He was a great artist because of his

 Michelangelo - Creativity and Art

a) incredible skill and speed.

He drew Adam’s penis in the Sistine Chapel with a single brush stroke!

 The creation of Adam on the ceiling is pictured right.


b) sense of humour

One of the angels in the Sistine Chapel is making a rude gesture!


c) will to win

He was obsessed with pushing himself to be great.


“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”. he said.


7. Positive thinking

However difficult his work, he was optimistic about finishing it successfully.


8. Patronage

Seven Popes commissioned his work, but his greatest patron was Julius II (Pope from 1503 to 1513).


Key quote on objectives

The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.


Key quotes on success

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all

Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.

Genius is eternal patience.


Key quote on creativity

Criticize by creating


Key quote on time management

There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.

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