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All About Renaissance Art And Its Five Great Masters

Updated on May 9, 2014

Madonna of the Rocks

Madonna of the Rocks by Slices of Light
Madonna of the Rocks by Slices of Light

All About Renaissance Art And Its Five Great Masters

Italy was the birthplace to the Renaissance primarily due to its history and location in the great Mediterranean Sea.  It was a commerce center between Eurasia and Europe and worked as a cultural diffusion between Europeans and Muslims.  Additionally, a large number of wealthy families found their homes here, willing to pay for higher educations.  Arts and Sciences were advocated by the Medici family that ruled Florence at the time and many aristocrats were more than happy to pay people to create as well as learn for them which resulted in the lower class of people becoming educated.  As society became more educated and intellectual, interest was turned toward Roman and Greek culture, resulting in the revival of Classicism.

Renaissance art finds itself divided into three phases being Early Renaissance, High Renaissance and Late Renaissance.  Artists such as Donatello, Masaccio and Brunelleschi led the Early Renaissance.  They created the understanding that development was crucial to the evolution of arts.  These Renaissance artists portrayed human figures that were realistic and gave them a personality.  Laws of proportion were applied for space, the body and architecture.  Most 15th century art is contained in this category.

Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, Titian and Raphael created the Renaissance art of the High Renaissance era.  This collection created an art style that found its focus on physical presence, drama and balance.  This was the shortest time period, beginning n 1495 and lasting until around 1520, producing some of the most popular pieces of art today.

In 1527, the Sack of Rome forced the relocation of artists to places like France, Italy and Spain.  Emerged from this time frame were anti-classical sentiments resulting in the Mannerist movement.

The Renaissance art that was created portrays when the artists really started to experiment with using oil-based paints by mixing linseed oil with powdered pigments.  Since this medium dried so incredibly slow, it allowed the artist to continue to edit his work for many months.  Architectural accuracy used in backgrounds of paintings became primary points and intense attention and perspective were given to light.  Biblical characters and subjects deriving from Roman and Greek mythology became popular choices of inspiration and Madonna in art was  of high importance.

Renaissance art places a very large emphasis of capturing the body in its nude state and artists tried to idealize the human body resulting in creations of physical perfection, unique personality and expression with purity.  During this time, poets, philosophers, essayists, scientists and artists were all seen as visionaries, resulting in shared knowledge and ideas.

Renaissance Art

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo created masterpieces such as The Last Supper, Mona Lisa and the Madonna of the Rocks.  As a child, Leonard was an apprentice at an Italian studio.  He moved to Milan in 1483 where he created the Madonna of the Rocks for Lodovico Sforza.  Aside from being an exquisite artist, he was truly a scientific genius.  He carried out vast research in fields such as anatomy, astronomy, civil engineering, geography, geology, zoology and paleontology.  Many of his technical and scientific observations can be found in over 4,000 survived pages of his manuscript.  His notes are extremely difficult to read and interpret though because he not only wrote with many unexplainable abbreviations, he wrote in a mirror image from right to left.  He studied rock and fossils in North Italy and observed rivers and mountains in depth and made the accurate assumption that many shells and fossils were once a habitat of a living creature.  He was a genius of Arts and Science.

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child - Michelangelo - Church of Our Lady - Bruges Belgium by jmortonscott
Madonna and Child - Michelangelo - Church of Our Lady - Bruges Belgium by jmortonscott

Michelangelo (1475-1564)

Like many other creators of Renaissance art, Michelangelo started out as an apprentice.  He is known for his masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel.  His family was upper-middle class and he was fortunate enough to have a father who paid for his schooling to study art.  In 1501 he became well known for his Statue of David that he created for the Florence Cathedral and was  heavily compensated for.  His works such as the Madonna and Child showed an evolution of unmatchable abilities.

Renaissance Art

Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello received his education in the Martelli family house and made a living working at local goldsmiths' shops.  His work on the Saint John the Evangelist figure portrayed a huge step  in Renaissance art pulling away from Gothic Mannerism.  His bronze David statue was the first nude freestanding statue that had been created since ancient times.  The Tomb of Giovanni Grivelli and the Ciborium showed a strong representation of classical influence.  He never tried to hide his homosexuality and his friends all were accepting of it and it is believed this was an influencing factor in the passion of his work.

School Of Athens

12027 - Vatican - Raphael Rooms - School of Athens by xiquinhosilva
12027 - Vatican - Raphael Rooms - School of Athens by xiquinhosilva

Raphael (1483-1520)

Raphael continues to be celebrated for the grace and perfection in his drawings and paintings.  He was very productive and although he died very young at 37, he left behind a large amount of work to appreciate.  He became an apprentice very young and as a teenager created a perfect self portrait, showing his early talent.  The Mond Crucifixtion and the Wedding of the Virgin are two of his most popular pieces of his early work.  Raphael at one point had a workshop with over 50 pupils that later became great artists of their own.  His portraits are exquisite and his drawings precise.  He is one of the most loved and famous masters of Renaissance art.

Assumption of the Virgin

12027 - Vatican - Raphael Rooms - School of Athens by dellaert
12027 - Vatican - Raphael Rooms - School of Athens by dellaert

Titian (1489-1591)

Titian was a historian that created a true sense of character into that of his models, which was known as his greatest gift.  His artistic manner went through many changes during his long life, displaying his versatility with religious and mythological subjects, portraits and landscape backgrounds.  His famous masterpieces are the Church of the Frari as well as his painting Assuntu,  which took several years to complete, boasting its three tier color dynamic composition.  During his last 25 years he became quite self-critical and an extreme perfectionist, often keeping many of his paintings for over 10 years, constantly retouching them.  He was truly a profound influence on Renaissance art.

The period of the Renaissance was a time of change and creativity in areas of political, cultural, social and economical development.  Humanism during this period put an emphasis on the intellect of man, influencing the subject matters of art as well as the curiosity to capture personality.  Renaissance art changed the way that people looked at themselves, other people and ultimately the world around them.  This was an era that truly produced the greatest artists of all time.

Renaissance Art Books


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