This was due in part to the fact that most Northern Renaissance artists began using oil paint in the early 15th century, in preference to tempera or fresco which due to climatic and other reasons were still the preferred painting methods in Italy. Oil painting allowed richer colour and, due to its longer drying time, could be reworked for many weeks, permitting the achievement of finer detail and greater realism. Oils quickly spread to Italy: first to Venice, whose damp climate was less suited to tempera, then Florence and Rome. See also: Art Movements, Periods, Schools , for a brief guide to other styles.
Among other things, this meant that while Christianity remained the dominant theme or subject for most visual art of the period, Evangelists, Apostles and members of the Holy Family were depicted as real people, in real-life postures and poses, expressing real emotions. At the same time, there was greater use of stories from classical mythology - showing, for example, icons like Venus the Goddess of Love - to illustrate the message of Humanism.
For more about this, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed. As far as plastic art was concerned, Italian Renaissance Sculpture reflected the primacy of the human figure, notably the male nude. Both Donatello and Michelangelo relied heavily on the human body, but used it neither as a vehicle for restless Gothic energy nor for static Classic nobility, but for deeper spiritual meaning. Note: For artists and styles inspired by the arts of classical antiquity, see: Classicism in Art onwards. Up until the Renaissance, painters and sculptors had been considered merely as skilled workers, not unlike talented interior decorators.
However, in keeping with its aim of producing thoughtful, classical art, the Italian Renaissance raised the professions of painting and sculpture to a new level. Disegno constituted the intellectual component of painting and sculpture, which now became the profession of thinking-artists not decorators. See also: Best Renaissance Drawings. The ideas and achievements of both Early and High Renaissance artists had a huge impact on the painters and sculptors who followed during the cinquecento and later, beginning with the Fontainebleau School c.
This theoretical approach, known as ' academic art ' regulared numerous aspects of fine art. In short, the main contribution of the Italian Renaissance to the history of art , lay in its promotion of classical Greek values. As a result, Western painting and sculpture developed largely along classical lines. And although modern artists, from Picasso onwards, have explored new media and art-forms, the main model for Western art remains Greek Antiquity as interpreted by the Renaissance.
Renaissance Chronology. It is customary to classify Italian Renaissance Art into a number of different but overlapping periods:. History of Renaissance Art. The Renaissance, or Rinascimento , was largely fostered by the post-feudal growth of the independent city, like that found in Italy and the southern Netherlands. Grown wealthy through commerce and industry, these cities typically had a democratic organization of guilds, though political democracy was kept at bay usually by some rich and powerful individual or family.
Good examples include 15th century Florence - the focus of Italian Renaissance art - and Bruges - one of the centres of Flemish painting. They were twin pillars of European trade and finance. Art and as a result decorative craft flourished: in the Flemish city under the patronage of the Dukes of Burgundy, the wealthy merchant class and the Church; in Florence under that of the wealthy Medici family. In this congenial atmosphere, painters took an increasing interest in the representation of the visible world instead of being confined to that exclusive concern with the spirituality of religion that could only be given visual form in symbols and rigid conventions.
The change, sanctioned by the tastes and liberal attitude of patrons including sophisticated churchmen is already apparent in Gothic painting of the later Middle Ages, and culminates in what is known as the International Gothic style of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth.
Throughout Europe in France, Flanders, Germany, Italy and Spain, painters, freed from monastic disciplines, displayed the main characteristics of this style in the stronger narrative interest of their religious paintings , the effort to give more humanity of sentiment and appearance to the Madonna and other revered images, more individual character to portraiture in general and to introduce details of landscape, animal and bird life that the painter-monk of an earlier day would have thought all too mundane.
These, it may be said, were characteristics also of Renaissance painting, but a vital difference appeared early in the fifteenth century. The realistic aim of a succeeding generation involved the radical step of penetrating through the surface to give a new sense of space, recession and three-dimensional form. This decisive advance in realism first appeared about the same time in Italy and the Netherlands, more specifically in the work of Masaccio at Florence, and of Jan van Eyck c.
Masaccio, who was said by Delacroix to have brought about the greatest revolution that painting had ever known, gave a new impulse to Early Renaissance painting in his frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine. The figures in these narrative compositions seemed to stand and move in ambient space; they were modelled with something of a sculptor's feeling for three dimensions, while gesture and expression were varied in a way that established not only the different characters of the persons depicted, but also their interrelation.
Though Van Eyck also created a new sense of space and vista, there is an obvious difference between his work and that of Masaccio which also illuminates the distinction between the remarkable Flemish school of the fifteenth century and the Italian Early Renaissance. Both were admired as equally 'modern' but they were distinct in medium and idea. Italy had a long tradition of mural painting in fresco, which in itself made for a certain largeness of style, whereas the Netherlandish painter, working in an oil medium on panel paintings of relatively small size, retained some of the minuteness of the miniature painter.
Masaccio, indeed, was not a lone innovator but one who developed the fresco narrative tradition of his great Proto-Renaissance forerunner in Florence, Giotto di Bondone See, for instance, the latter's Scrovegni Chapel Frescoes c.
Florence had a different orientation also as a centre of classical learning and philosophic study. The city's intellectual vigour made it the principal seat of the Renaissance in the fifteenth century and was an influence felt in every art. Scholars who devoted themselves to the study and translation of classical texts, both Latin and Greek, were the tutors in wealthy and noble households that came to share their literary enthusiasm.
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This in turn created the desire for pictorial versions of ancient history and legend. The painter's range of subject was greatly extended in consequence and he now had further problems of representation to solve. In this way, what might have been simply a nostalgia for the past and a retrograde step in art became a move forward and an exciting process of discovery.
The human body, so long excluded from fine art painting and medieval sculpture by religious scruple - except in the most meagre and unrealistic form - gained a new importance in the portrayal of the gods, goddesses and heroes of classical myth. Painters had to become reacquainted with anatomy , to understand the relation of bone and muscle, the dynamics of movement.
In the picture now treated as a stage instead of a flat plane, it was necessary to explore and make use of the science of linear perspective. In addition, the example of classical sculpture was an incentive to combine naturalism with an ideal of perfect proportion and physical beauty. Painters and sculptors in their own fashion asserted the dignity of man as the humanist philosophers did, and evinced the same thirst for knowledge.
Extraordinary indeed is the list of great Florentine artists of the fifteenth century and, not least extraordinary, the number of them that practised more than one art or form of expression. In every way the remarkable Medici family fostered the intellectual climate and the developments in the arts that made Florence the mainspring of the Renaissance. The fortune derived from the banking house founded by Giovanni de' Medici c.
The equation of the philosophy of Plato and Christian doctrine in the academy instituted by Cosimo de' Medici seems to have sanctioned the division of a painter's activity, as so often happened, between the religious and the pagan subject. The intellectual atmosphere the Medici created was an invigorating element that caused Florence to outdistance neighbouring Siena. Though no other Italian city of the fifteenth century could claim such a constellation of genius in art, those that came nearest to Florence were the cities likewise administered by enlightened patrons.
Ludovico Gonzaga Marquess of Mantua, was a typical Renaissance ruler in his aptitude for politics and diplomacy, in his encouragement of humanist learning and in the cultivated taste that led him to form a great art collection and to employ Andrea Mantegna as court painter. Of similar calibre was Federigo Montefeltro , Duke of Urbino.
Like Ludovico Gonzaga, he had been a pupil of the celebrated humanist teacher, Vittorino da Feltre, whose school at Mantua combined manly exercises with the study of Greek and Latin authors and inculcated the humanist belief in the all-round improvement possible to man. At the court of Urbino, which set the standard of good manners and accomplishment described by Baldassare Castiglione in Il Cortigiano, the Duke entertained a number of painters, principal among them the great Piero della Francesca The story of Renaissance painting after Masaccio brings us first to the pious Fra Angelico c.
Something of the Gothic style remains in his work but the conventual innocence, which is perhaps what first strikes the eye, is accompanied by a mature firmness of line and sense of structure. This is evident in such paintings of his later years as The Adoration of the Magi now in the Louvre and the frescoes illustrating the lives of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence, frescoed in the Vatican for Pope Nicholas V in the late s.
They show him to have been aware of, and able to turn to advantage, the changing and broadening attitude of his time. See also his series of paintings on The Annunciation c. His pupil Benozzo Gozzoli c.
Fra Filippo, in the religious subjects he painted exclusively, both in fresco and panel, shows the tendency to celebrate the charm of an idealized human type that contrasts with the urge of the fifteenth century towards technical innovation. Dancing masters taught the steps to the nobility, and the court participated in the performances. A passionate dancer, he performed many roles himself, including that of the Sun King in Ballet de la nuit.
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His love of ballet fostered its elevation from a past time for amateurs to an endeavor requiring professional training. By , a dance academy had opened in Paris, and in ballet moved from the courts to the stage. By the mids French ballet master Jean Georges Noverre rebelled against the artifice of opera-ballet, believing that ballet could stand on its own as an art form.
Early classical ballets such as Giselle and La Sylphide were created during the Romantic Movement in the first half of the 19th century. This movement influenced art, music and ballet. It was concerned with the supernatural world of spirits and magic and often showed women as passive and fragile. Parallels can be found in paintings of the period, such as those by Titian, Michelangelo and Hans Baldung Grien. The anatomists also claimed to portray the body in an objective manner, and showed themselves as heroes of the discovery of human knowledge.