Thesis: Changing: A Look at the Italian Renaissance

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¶ … Changing:

A Look at the Italian Renaissance

The objective of this project is to look into the artists of the Renaissance and understand their influence of their art on the world. Most artists are unaware that they are making an impression; they simply respond to their instincts as an artist. The late Michael Jackson is an example of this. While it can be said that he was slated for greatness, he was actually doing what came very naturally for him. From a child singing to an adult inventing the moonwalk, he was following his artistic flairs, wherever they took him. The artists of the Renaissance were not different from this at all. They understood art a little bit different from everyone else and they yearned to express this emotion. This paper will explore some of these artists and their work. It will examine what it is about their work that makes them different and their work different. This project will also look at how these artists help shape a new mood and movement without actually attempting to do so. The Italian Renaissance is one of the most fascinating aspects in artistic history because it is filled with great thinkers and artists that literally changed the way art was perceived. While the word means rebirth, this word does not begin to encapsulate everything that was happening with art. New ideas about art and how to make art emerged during the Italian Renaissance and from the very beginning, these artists were looking for a better way to express beauty and nature with faithful representations never before seen.

Important Dates During the Renaissance

1305 Giotto paints Lamentations

1310 Giotto paints Madonna Enthroned

1425 Masaccio paints Expulsion of Adam and Eve From Eden

1428 Masaccio paints Holy Trinity

1413 Donatello sculpted Saint Mark

1432 Donatello sculpted David

1455 Donatello sculpted Mary Magedelene

1485 Botticello paints The Birth Of Venus

1495 Di Vinci paints the Last Supper

1500 Michelangelo sculpts Pieta

1504 Michelangelo sculpts David

1512 Michelangelo paints Sistine Chapel

The Renaissance is often seen associated with humanism, as both terms are related to a renewed interest in life -- especially life as it is seen through the prism of experience. Mankind became interested in humanity and the mind during the Renaissance. Individuals wanted to explore the inner workings of the human mind and attempt to understand why we are the way we are. This meant an increase in knowledge and an interest in new perspectives. These new perspectives were closely related to the artist and his art. Aesthetic and creative powers became something to admire as art was recognized as something more than work. This renewed interest in art opened a door of change for artists that changed art and how we view it forever.

Form and matter underwent a significant change in the Renaissance. Artists literally began looking at the creation of their art in new ways. Giotto di Bondone was one of the forerunners of Renaissance, making a "radical break with the past" (Tansey 634) and his style is best known for its rendering of form. Giotto's "true teacher" (635) was nature or the "world of visual things" (635) and his revolution in painting consisted in the dislocation of the Byzantine style as well as introducing a "firm method of pictoral experiment through observation" (635). In addition to this, he initiated an era that Tansey claims to be "early scientific" (635) by "stressing the preeminence of the faculty of sight in gaining knowledge of the world" (635). Giotto's successors realized the "visual world must be observed before it can be analyzed and understood" (635). It is important to note that Giotto reveals nature in the process of observing it. Artists moved with Giotto to a more visible world and replaced an inward vision with an outward one searching for "not for the secrets of nature but for union with God" (635). Giotto's fresco, Lamentations, painted in 1305, illustrates his ability to create a stage on which many human dramas will be depicted. At the same time, every event in the painting evokes a "single, intense response within which degrees of psychic vibration, so to speak, are quite apparent" (638). Each group in the painting has its own definition and bring the viewer into the painting, something not done before. His new use of depth and mass could not work without a delicate use of light and space. These techniques represent how Giotta saw the world, as filled with separate stages or events but all coming together in the final scene.

Richard Tansey notes, "no other painter in history is known to have contributed so much to the development of a new style" (Tansey 695). Masaccio "revolutionized" (Tansey 695) Giotto's style, a style that generations of Renaissance painters would later study and develop. His work introduced new possibilities for form and content with painting. His best work is best demonstrated in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. His style in these frescoes illustrates his creative endeavors. Tansey observes that in Giotto's frescoes, light is "merely the modeling of a mass" (696) while in Masaccio's frescoes, light "comes to have its own nature" (696). Masaccio's Holy Trinity illustrate two "principles" (698) that Renaissance painters were very interested in and those are realism based on observation and the application of mathematics to the art form.

Donatello established himself as one of the founders of this new Renaissance style. In 1411, he sculpted Saint Mark and while this is his first piece, it clearly demonstrates the new direction in which art was headed. Unlike medieval statues, the position of each limb in Saint mark and its relation to the body as a whole are visible beneath the fabric draping the body. In essence, the statue looks realistic. Hartt notes that Donatello has "represented not only a figure whose physical being is fully articulated, but also a complex personality summoning up all his psychological resources to confront an external situation" (Hartt 37). His bronze statue of David, sculpted in 1430, was the first nude of David and the first freestanding nude since ancient times. Again, this piece reveals Donatello's ability to create realistically. The statue exploits the "contrast between the detached, impassive stare of the victor and the tragic expression of the severed head" (Hartt 40). It is also worth noting that David's nudity symbolized "nakedness of the soul before God" (40), giving the statue a moralistic content.

Botticelli is another painter that must be mentioned when discussing the Italian Renaissance. He was heavily influenced by the movement that seemed to be surrounding him. Tansey notes that it was the "spiritualized and mystical Platonism" (721) that appealed to Botticelli and from it, sprang his famous Birth of Venus painting. Tansey notes that the myth, in Botticelli's hands is "transmuted into a Neo-Platonic allegory of the human soul" (722). This type of mystical approach to painting was so different from what the world was used to that it could only find it beautiful and strange at the same time.

Michelangelo is perhaps the premier of the Renaissance artists. Many consider him to be a maverick because he attempted to break away from the techniques of the old. One fascinating fact about Michelangelo is the fact that he was never formally trained in the arts. At the age of 13, he worked as an assistance in a jewelers shop and it was there that his talent was recognized. While he was still a teenager, he was well-known for his drawings in Florence. People immediately recognized how realistic his sketches were and commented that they were better than those of well-renowned teachers in the area. (Lace 28). Michelangelo was drawn to sculpting more than anything and eventually attended a sculpture school in Medici. William Lace writes that Michelangelo brought "realism to art, freeing it from the stiff formality of the preceding centuries" (Lace 7). Again, we see the artist looking at his work as something that yearned to be as realistic as it could be. Michelangelo viewed art differently because he not only wanted to carve something that looked natural, he wanted his creations to convey real emotion. Here we can see a man that feels connected to his work in a way that puts the artist in the mix with the creation. He is known to have said that he wanted to bring out of the stone what was already in it, meaning the artist was only a part of the magic that was taking place. The art already existed and it selected Michelangelo to reveal itself to. In this sense, we can see that the artist only saw himself as a tool. This way of thinking not only inspired his contemporaries, but it also challenged the public to "reevaluate its view of artists" (8). Before Michelangelo, it was not common to hold a talented artist in high regard. However, his notoriety suddenly opened the eyes of many. Artists do something that others cannot. Michelangelo even thought artist… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Changing: A Look at the Italian Renaissance.  (2009, July 24).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/changing-look-italian-renaissance/119921

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