Art the Renaissance Heralded in an Entirely Term Paper

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The Renaissance heralded in an entirely new tradition of art form during the 14th and 15th centuries, with a wide variety of painters, poets, writers and architects that literally and figuratively saw the world in a different light from the dark and dismal Middle Ages. Humanism developed in Italy in the field of literature, once again honoring the Greek and Latin classics for their scholarship and moral ethics. The humanists emphasized an enormous confidence in the power of reason as a source to understand human nature and its place in the world's order (Art: A World History, 215). The Reformation, a religious revolution with an emphasis on individual faith, was promoted by individuals or "protestors" such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and John Knox. Alarmed at the corruption of the Catholic Church, they wanted to return Christianity back to its earlier simplicity and biblical foundation. The passion and intellectualism of the times challenged traditional ideas and values and stressed a rebirth of ideas, creativity and philosophy (Wood, 127).

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Leonardo Da Vinci epitomized this period of humanistic, artistic and intellectual growth. As a scientist, inventor, sculptor and artist, he researched and wrote about a vast number of subjects including nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture. On the one hand, he designed advanced weapons such as a tank and submarine and, on the other hand, a range of artistic works including the "Last Supper" and "Virgin on the Rocks" as well as technically advanced anatomical drawings (Ritchie-Calder).

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Da Vinci's artistic genius is recognized in painting techniques such as his scientific study of light and shadow. His artwork "Mona Lisa" showed objects that were not comprised of outlines, but actually three-dimensional bodies defined by light and shadow. Known as chiaroscuro, this technique gave his paintings the soft, lifelike quality that made older paintings look one-dimensional and flat (Gardner, 12). He also saw that an object's detail and color changed as it receded in the distance. This technique, called sfumato, was originally developed by Flemish and Venetian painters, but da Vinci transformed it into a powerful tool for creating atmosphere and depth ("Learners Online").

Likewise, fellow sculptor, poet and artist Buonarroti Michelangelo was lauded as the supreme example of Florentine disegno, the drawings of the human form or "God's inspiration" prior to the carving of such sculptures as the Biblical "David." He believed that the premise of his work was already in the stone as a human soul lends its nature to a body. His work is also known as an example of contrapposto, the sculptural technique where the artist illustrates the natural symmetry of the body through bending of the hips and legs. Previously, statues were carved in a very straight, rigid and formal manner, much like the ancient Egyptians pharoah portraits (Gardner, 348).

Under the infuence of Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael Sanzio's religious paintings such as "Ansidei Madonna" and "Madonna del Baldacchino" as well as his frescos showed a mastery of composition. He is well-known for his personality of paintings, depicting psychology as well as history and form. For example, in "The Marriage of the Virgin," the people are shown with emotions and motion. There is an energy of movement and realism not in earlier paintings (Gardner, 344).

These three examples from the Renaissance are chosen because they demonstrate the new forms of creative approach that broke away from the medieval view and revolutionized the world of art, making a profound impact on thought and emotion. They represent a few of the masterpieces that continue to this day to be unsurpassed in their distinct beauty yet simplicity.

The artwork in the Renaissance began to appeal to the senses and emotional appeal of the viewers. This emphasis was continued to a great extent during the Baroque period of the 17th century throughout all its forms of art, music and literature. There is a feeling of movement, action and strong emotion. Large contrasts of light and shadow make the paintings and sculptures even more dramatic. Renaissance music was rigid and structured. However, during the Baroque era, the music became much more alive and flowing. Opera, which developed during this period, showed how music and literature can be combined to increase the effect of music. The art and architecture of the Baroque times were just as varied with elaborate designs on the outside, inside walls and ceilings of churches. The paintings were powerful with illuminated figures coming out of deep shadows. Many of the scenes depicted the everyday life in the streets and countryside (Art: A World History, 252).

The Dutch painter Jan Vermeer was a perfect example of the Baroque artwork. Almost all of Vermeer's paintings are of contemporary subjects in a smaller format, with cool colors such as blues, browns and grays. The sparkling highlights in Vermeer's paintings have been linked to his probable use of the newly developed camera obscura. In "The Woman Weighing Pearls," the scale's metal pans are thin slivers of color, the pearls barely visible if there at all. The feeling is serene, due to the muted colors, light and shadows and delicate composition. He is actually known as using allegory in painting (Hoving, 114). A woman holds a balance in her right hand. In the darkened room is a large painting hanging on the wall and a table. Through the window, covered partially by a curtain, some light enters the room. Vermeer found the right delicate balance between the composition and figures contained in the painting and achieved texture by applying paint thickly with firm strokes.

During the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the typical belief was that the Western world was entering further into a time of new scientific discoveries and the expansion of human reason. Rational thought and action was very important. Although philosophers, artists and intellectuals saw the church, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as the negative force that had enslaved the human mind in the past, most Enlightenment thinkers did not slander religion completely. However, they believed that human efforts should not be wasted on worries about life after death, but rather on making this world better.

Enlightenment art contained similar themes as the period in general, such as naturalism over supernaturalism and the importance of daily life. It took the emotionalism and sensuality of the earlier era and controlled it with reason. The artist's role was to mold human emotion and give it order and design. The artwork and statues are thus warm and loving, yet real and down to earth. One of the finest works is Giovanni Antonio Canal's (Canaletto's) "The Stonemason's Yard." The paint is fluent and the color is rich with bold contrasts of light and shade. The figures, though small in scale, are lively and active. His early paintings were usually painted directly from nature rather than a studio ("National Gallery").

Canaletto was trained as a scene painter, but specialized in depicting views of the city, its canals and churches, festivals and ceremonies. "The Stonemason's Yard" presents an intimate urban view, as if from a rear window. Canaletto's later works are painted rather tightly on a reflective white ground, but this picture is freely brushed over reddish brown, to give warmth to the whole. Thunder clouds are gradually clearing, and the sun casts strong shadows to create steep diagonals that help define the space and architecture. In the foreground, a mother props up her broom to rush to the aid of her fallen toddler, watched by a woman airing the bedding out of the window above and a small girl. Stonemasons kneel to their work and a woman spins at her window. A little shabby house hangs a red cloth from the window and catches the brightest of the sunlight ("National Gallery").

Romanticism, which succeeded Enlightenment, once again transformed the world of literature and art. Romantic ideas arose as a criticism of 18th century Enlightenment thought. The Romantics criticized the Enlightenment because they felt it blocked the free play of the emotions and creativity. Imagination, sensitivity, feelings, spontaneity and freedom were too restrained. Instead, they felt, humans must liberate themselves from these intellectual barriers. Although those from the Enlightenment saw the importance of similarity of thought, the Romantics saw a need for diversity and individuality. They appreciated those traits that set one person apart from another, one culture apart from all others (Art: A World History, 372). Music in the Romantic age provided a wonderful way to express emotion. In many ways, the art song stressed organized accompaniments by piano, leading to music composed exclusively for the piano as a solo instrument. Masterworks of Franz Shubert, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Richard Strauss, and Igor Tchaikovsky are noteworthy.

Romantic artists were fascinated by the internal nature of humanity -- its passion and internal problems, its moods, mental concerns, challenges, delights. The painters delved into human personality, culture and ethnic origins, the mysterious and the unknown. Artists now had the role of describing all the layers of humankind, without being constrained… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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