Basic History of Western Art Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3305 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

¶ … History of Western Art

Donatello's David is a clear influence of the classical style over the Renaissance art. The sculpture features a nude representation of carefully studied anatomy that depicts a certain level of feminity. It reminds of the Greek pursuit for beauty and realistic representation of the human figure, as well as the illustration of a major biblical event. It is an important work of art of the Renaissance period that shows a clear vision of the ideology of an era, where the religious crisis of the Christian church was bringing new solutions for society. On one hand, because of the many conflicts the church had over the middle ages period that resulted in a loss of spiritual faith from the people, the new age tried to recover the greatness of the ancient roman empire, by bringing into their lives the art style and ideological concepts of that time. The return to the Greek vision, that was one of the main influences in Rome's time of glory, was an attempt to recreate the spirituality and mind of a golden age.

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Renaissance art tried to recreate the classic style, but included some innovations, like the introduction of perspective in painting. During the medieval ages, the Byzantine period was characterized by the use of flat background and little depth given to characters. Another aspect was the minor importance given to the portraitist qualities in painting and sculpture and the representation of a generic character with very few individual features. In Renaissance art the use of volumes becomes a major preoccupation for artists. Also the change in the palette used, bringing colors to become less bright, less fantastic but more realistic and harmoniously combined.

Term Paper on Basic History of Western Art Assignment

Michael Angelo's main interest was human figure, represented through different kinds of mythological and religious subjects, using allegories, like in "Day and night" where those elements take the form of humans. He had a strong preoccupation for realistic anatomic recreation and to communicate through his work feeling and expression. His work shows great realism in the spiritual state of the characters and the emotions they are meant to induce in the viewer. Some influence from classic art can be seen in works such as David or Pieta, that represent the clear Greek anatomical perfection, with a sense of delicate beauty in the harmony of lines.

The mannerism is the result of the application of the fixated rules of the Renaissance, but taken to the extreme. Renaissance was exhausting itself into the very strict rules of the stereotypes. In closed circles, like private courts of some nobles and princes, there was a new interest for a much exaggerated art, only accepted by those educated enough in the subject and open to such kind of violation of the pictorial rules. This was an unnatural art. The characters in those works suffer terrible distortions or appear in twisted postures impossible in real life. The colors are not natural, but they are cold and artificial, violently contrasting with each other instead of combining. Even academic scholars like Michael Angelo or Raphael experimented in their last years with the distortion or unfinished appearance of their work. Tizian, Correggio and Giorgione employed sophisticated symbolism in their work.

The difference between the artistic visions evolving in Rome or Florence than the one resulting in Venice comes from the different perception and preoccupation of those societies. Rome was trying to get back in touch with the antique classical art, taking as model the Roman art, in an attempt to reconstruct the Roman Empire in its greatness. To achieve this artists returned to the former preoccupation for human figure as the centre of all arts and as the connection between the gods and the human world. Their concern was for anatomy, portrait and representations of movement, postures, attitude and emotions.

Both Rome and Florence were big merchant cities, where interest for science and intellectual activities were taking over. The medieval conception that the artists was merely a worker was beginning to fade away as the artists became more intellectual, respected, and became closely acquainted with the most important scholars of their time. However in Venice, the conception was different, since that was a smaller city, less affected by the speed of modern world and more sensitive to preoccupations such as landscape, colors and beauty of nature. Venetian perception of esthetics was more inclined towards landscape that human figure. In Venetian works the representation of the landscape or background have higher importance than the characters involved. Venetian art was more linked to the Northern, Germanic and Netherlands school, than to what was happening in Rome.

Northern painting developed differently than Italian art during the 15th century period. In the northern school the preoccupation for landscape and nature were the main subject, while in Italy mythology, man and greatness were the main subject. In those countries the Protestant Reform brought a rupture between the church and the world of art, religious subjects losing interest. While in Italy there was great preoccupation with graphic expression, drawing and lines, the northern school was focused on the pictorial dimension of art, giving greater importance to color palette, light and shadow.

The introduction of the printing press affected the vision of the world since many books became available for the common people while new theories about religion, politics and history began to appear and new ideals and interests occurred. Information traveled easier and was more accessible. It also changed the vision of art because it offered a chance to make multiple copies of a drawing, introducing a new art form, related to drawing -etching and xylography. During the Renaissance Germany had many publications and artists were usually qualified to make wood carvings as well as drawings. Most artists began their career in printing workshops illustrating different papers.

The Reformation had its influence in German art, bringing into the northern countries and especially the Netherlands the baroque movement. In 1517 Martin Luther published his work where he strongly criticized the church as being corrupt and false. This was a change in the artistic vision of society, since the church lost power and was no longer the commander of the art, the religious scenes lost interest and artists centered more on portraying the lives of the common people. Attention drove from religious subjects to every day scenes, and special attention was placed on new techniques like the effects of lights, dramatic shadows and the portraying of different materials. It was aimed to the senses, not the spirituality.

Albert Durer was strongly influenced in his work by a Flemish school and the gothic German tradition. His work show great achievement in recreating the effects of light and shadow and the arrangement of figures in the composition, as well as difficult perspectives. During his first years when he made many printings for local papers, his work shows a clear attention for drawing contour, geometric proportions and details, especially seen in his series of self-portrait. He mastered the graphic vision of creating different shades through the use of lines, which gave his printings volume and dimension in a pictorial way.

The design of Versailles and the Louvre show in their greatness and exquisite design the power of the royal court. The most carefully selected artists were assigned the task of creating great masterpieces to showcase the luxury of the royal family. They resemble the Rococo style, as they are greatly decorated with complicated ornamentations that fill the entire space. The French taste of the period is reflected in the great gardens that surround the constructions. The Royal Academy of fine arts was founded in 1648. It served the Neoclassicism and Romanticism movements. The art influenced under the teachings of this institution is called academic art. The purpose was to teach artists to follow very specific rules that had the purpose of bringing art to a higher level of technique and quality. The main teaching method was to have students copy the works of past masters. Many countries in Europe followed the example of the French academy and founded their own institutions for the teaching of fine arts. In England it was the Royal Academy.

The Rococo is characterized by a very elaborated and heavy ornamentation. Its period was around the reign of Louis XV, king of France. Good examples are the works of jean-Antoine Watteau, whose delicate colors of aristocratic scenes break the heroic style of Louis XIV. The word Rococo comes from the French rocaille, which means little rock. Decoration was contained mainly arabesques, curves and seashells. Its esthetic vision was based on asymmetry, pale and pastel colors and richness of lines. The painting became ornamental and monumental. In France it was aimed for the royal house. In other countries served the nobility. It featured the life of the aristocracy, no longer the interests of the church, as the reform caused the church to lose power and interest from the artists. The most representative were Francois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard. This style was exported quickly… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Basic History of Western Art.  (2007, February 25).  Retrieved April 14, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Basic History of Western Art."  25 February 2007.  Web.  14 April 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Basic History of Western Art."  February 25, 2007.  Accessed April 14, 2021.