Italian Renaissance Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2689 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Italian Renaissance was the beginning of the Renaissance, a period of achievements and cultural changes that extended from the late XIV century until about 1600, constituting the transition between the Middle Ages and modern Europe.

The word Renaissance has a very explicit meaning that represents the renewed interest for the period in the culture of classic antiquity, after what would then be called "The Dark Age." Those changes, although significant, were concentrated in the upper classes, and for most of the common people the life style had little change compared to the middle ages.

Italian Renaissance began in Toscana, having its epicenter in Florence and Siena. This was followed by a powerful impact in Rome. The peak of the movement appeared at the end of the XV century when the foreign invaders sank the region in chaos

Italian painting trespassed the borders of Italy and into the entire European territory that fell under the influence of Italian masters' refined taste and a style that had been developing, seeking perfection. This mentality lasted for several generations of painters and spread to other European countries.

Painting was the last art to detach from the Byzantine style. The change occurred in the XIV century, under the influence of Florentine school, produced by Giotto, and where two contradictive talents met: Fra Angelico, the last great Italian gothic artist and Massaccio, an escorzo specialist.

During the Renaissance period several schools appeared en Siena, Padua, Mantua, Venice, Verona and Rome. The new schools adapted to traditional models and each had particular characteristics, favoring some the line, others the shapes, the movement, the space, the color or the psychological expression (Hellmut, 1999).

Common characteristics of those works are the correct use of linear perspective (' (Renaissance Art and Architecture', 1999), triangular composition, reference to the golden section, the use of escorzo, naturalistic representation of human anatomy, interest for mythological themes besides the traditional religious subjects and portraits, and careful study sketches.

The distinctive character of Renaissance painting must number in the first place unity in composition. Other main aspects that confer its special dimension are perspective, anatomic representation, exterior beauty, tendency to imitate nature, taking inspiration sometimes in classical sculptural pieces.

Great importance is given to the mythological subjects, cultivating the portrait and stories. The religious works are not forgotten, but those lack the mystical idealism of the precedent period

The Byzantine gilding is abandoned, giving way to realistic colors. The medium changes with the new style and painters prefer the work of oil on canvas, except for mural painting or fresco.

The decadence period is characterized by the shortage of good masters and the exaggeration of movement in the figures, along with unnatural expression of the faces that seems 'stylized rather than real' (Pioch, 2006).

Renaissance painting cultivates the shape and colorism finding its base in Greek art. At the end of the XIII century some artists realized that the legacy left by Greece to the western world had ceased to exist. The art had lost its power among people and artists had become mere craftsmen. Since the middle ages, Western Europe lost the sense of art. Preoccupation for painting was weak, and the works revealed a low graphic capacity.

Human figure had no sense of proportion and tended to be more caricaturist than realistic. Perspective was practically nonexistent and the space that supported the characters lacked position and depth. There was no composition. Figures were flat, volumless and the use of light had no realistic logic.

Some painters realized that the classical art needed to 're-birth'. For that reason this period was called Renaissance, because the Hellenic culture was back to life. The works of that period contain the drama and perfection that classical works sought. The process did not occur overnight, but took two centuries of art transformation, from Giotto to Michelangelo.

The first painters of the Quatroccento were Massaccio (1401- 1428), Fra Angelico (1387- 1455), Paolo Uccello (1397- 1475) and Filippo Lippi (1406- 1469) that appeared with a new technique that would be the mostly adopted for painting: oil painting. Before that, the most commonly used technique was the egg paint.

The first difference from gothic works was the placing of figures in space, using perspective. Human proportions went back to normal and some artists soon began to work with life models. Threedimentionality was achieved and the bases of the Renaissance were stated during that period.

The next generation formed by "http: Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Andrea Mantegna and Piero della Francesca would develop the most pure essence of the Quatroccento style. During that period the novelty were the studies on perspective that they would experiment in several pictures. Another element that would appear and develop was the use of escorzo, one of the most difficult techniques.

The next generation of artists would conform the Cinqueccento, the second part of the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci, "Miguel angel" Michelangelo, Rafael and Titian

The elements that Renaissance painting borrowed from Greek art (Greek sculpture, mainly) were the effect of movement that characterized the sculptures (Schneider, 2001). The elasticity that figures present in order to give them life was presented by Michelangelo in his contortioned figures, with forced positions, that give an immediate sensation of energy and life.

Human proportion, the canon of the perfect human, reappeared thanks to the scripts left by roman architect Vitruvius that defined the characteristics of the perfect man. Human representation also took Herculean dimensions, as the figures presented by Michelangelo in the judgment day, where he designed a series of characters of exaggerated, muscular and idealized physique.

The sensations and sentiments that characterize Greek sculpture inspired Renaissance works. For example the drama, suffering and feeling of some ancient pieces inspired Michelangelo's figures of the Judgment Day.

The artist's reputation during classical Greece also reappeared during the renaissance. In Hellenic society the artist was considered a master, a profession that required great training and talent and experience. The Renaissance artist tried to recover the respect that artists had in classical period, before the middle ages had reduce the profession to craftsmanship.

One important advance in painting and drawing during this period was the study of the human and animal anatomy. Artists began to study closely the human physique, dissecting dead bodies, in spite of the strict rules of the church against this practice. This helped develop a more realistic representation of characters. They also began working with life models and abandoning the imaginary compositions that characterized Byzantine painting, although landscape representation was rarely done outdoors.

The cult for nudity developed strong and became a standard procedure, inspired in the ancient conception that nudity was a state of divine purification and glory. Mortals and divine characters where displayed nude, the human figure becoming more and more perfectly presented, showing anatomical details as muscles, bones, or even veins seen through the skin in some cases.

The use of controlled light gave space to backgrounds and threedimentionality to figures. One thing they preserved from the gothic painting was the even texture of materials. It would not be until the baroque period that painters would begin to present different feeling for materials in their paintings.

Renaissance palette eliminated the gilding and golden adornments on painting, leaning to basic colors, saturated and sometimes transparent. Colors were used to express sensations and feelings. Dark dull colors would help create the state of drama of a suffering scene, or bright lively colors would emphasize the merriness of a beautiful landscape.

One of the exponents that can illustrate all of those advances in the art world was Raphael Sanzio. He did not reach the fame and glory of Michelangelo or Leonardo, perhaps because he died comparably young, but he managed to establish himself as one of the most talented painters of that period.

Raphael lived in an era when drawing suffered a phase of transition and when the pen was substituted by chalk. The most common subject in Raphael's work was the virgin and child, the most common also in Italian art.

Raphael studied the style of contemporary masters such as Leonardo and Michelangelo, from whom he learned the presentation of light and shade, the anatomical study and the representation of attitudes and dramas. During the Florentine period he changed his way of painting, based on geometric compositions and the interest for perspective. He leaned towards more suave and natural manners. His evolution during that time can be seen though a series of Madonnas.

One of his pieces that show the influence of Leonardo would be 'La belle jardiniere' (1507-1508, Oil on panel 48 x 31 1/2 in Louvre, Paris). The virgin and the two children form a dynamic pyramidal composition, giving balance and serenity to the scene. The group is placed on the first plane of a luminous and open landscape. The plants and bushes are presented with scientific study. The loving glance the virgin casts over the child reveal the Renaissance preoccupation for the expression of their figures in painting compositions. Characters must express feelings and attitudes,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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