The Renaissance was an era of beautiful artwork and structures that flourished all over Western Europe. The artists began to be more expressive and creative in their designs. Art evolved by way of subject matter, technique, influences, and of course the artists. Some of the most noted artists, architects, and sculptors of the High Renaissance include Giotto, Donato Bramante, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. It was one of the high points of humanism and the expression of creativity and beauty of life. During the period between 1350 to 1550, art changed and evolved through its subject matter.
The subject matter of painting before the Renaissance was primarily religious; it was concerned not with the naturalistic portrayal of human life, but with the purpose of provoking a religious reaction of the viewer. Painters were not interested in making a picture look realistic. During the Renaissance, all that changed. Suddenly artwork began to put emphasis on human beings and the environment. Giotto was one of the first masters to put these ideas on canvas. He turned away from the symbolic art of the Middle Ages and went more towards art that dealed directly with people and things.
People were painted as to mimic social situations, and settings were painted in attempt to look real. Giotto along with Michelangelo helped catalyze this movement in which Italian artists moved from the unrealistic and symbolic art of the Middle Ages to a mastery of illusion. Art began to give the impression that it was an accurate representation of real life. As time moved on, figures began to look more realistic. For example, Giottos work looks much more realistic than earlier art, but when compared to Raphaels two hundred years later, it is hardly representative.
Although there was an intense drive toward realism, artists did not want to make a copy of nature. They began to play around with perspective and manipulate what they actually saw. Reality was contorted to give figures an inner expressiveness. The earlier masters were able to convey emotions, but this practice became more advanced in the Renaissance. There was a broader range of personality and artists like Leonardo Da Vinci found new ways to show human feelings. The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa best illustrate Da Vincis mastery of human depth.
They both portray great psychological depth and a sense of inner life. Much of the subject matter of Renaissance artists continued to be religious. As with the Middle Ages, there was a consistent infatuation with Christianity and biblical scenes. However, one thing that did change was the use of symbols. Medieval art persistently used symbols to comment on or explain the meaning of a painting. In Renaissance painting, symbols were used more accurately and more often because of the painters ability to copy nature correctly.
Human beings were also portrayed more commonly and anatomy was constructed more precisely. In short, subject matter of art in the Renaissance became much more advanced and realistic. In order to evolve artistically, artists in the Renaissance had to use new and more advanced techniques. Some of these methods were based on mathematics like perspective and geometric arrangements. The 15th century underwent intense technical development, which allowed artists to take advantage of sciences and technology. Leonardo da Vinci was the first Renaissance painter to master the use of mechanical perspective.
This element guides the painter in drawing the relative size of objects correctly. Also in use was aerial perspective, which uses progressively paler colors on receding objects to obtain a sense of depth. Another effect was sfumato, a blurring or hazing of the outline of an object to blend it into its surroundings. Along with chiaroscuro, a way of painting shadows to give definition to the forms they fall across. Painters also had to manipulate light and shade to obtain a more realistic look. Furthermore, manipulation of light and shadow is also apparent in architecture in the Tempietto.
Besides painting devices, artists also had to study their material in order to acquire a realistic appearance. Leonardo da Vinci wrote that the painter will produce pictures of small merit if he takes for his standard the pictures of others, but if he will study from natural objects he will bear good fruit. He also said that Giotto being born in the mountains and in solitude inhabited only by goats and such beasts, and being guided by nature to his art, began by drawing on rocks the movements of the goats which he was keeper.
If a painter wanted to paint the human form, they would have to study human anatomy. These artistic techniques had to be formed in order to keep up with the growing evolution of art. As ideas and events shifted in the Renaissance, they became highly influential upon artwork. When life is calm and prosperous, life and religion is portrayed as friendly, virtuous, and noble. However when times are troubled, people think of death and this goes into their art. That is why during the Black Death in the 14th century, Giotto and his followers did not emphasize the humanity of saints and biblical characters.
Instead, they placed figures such as Christ and the Virgin Mary on a pedestal above them, superior to mortal men. In time of need, the artists were looking toward religion to save them from distress. In 1380 the crisis ended and artists turned back to realism, human emotions, and representational accuracy at the centurys close. Ideas like humanism and neoplatonic philosophy were also influential to the arts. Humanism greatly supported the arts because it emphasized people and mans activities. It is one of the main reasons why the human body was so extensively studied.
Accurate anatomy in art is essential to maintain the humanist mentality. Neoplatonic philosophy, which traces the evolution of man, goes hand in hand with humanism. This philosophy is best displayed by Michelangelo in the Laurentian Library. In this arch design, a flight of stairs swirls back on each side as though symbolizing the upward descent of man. The influence of ideas and events helped art grow and develop in the Renaissance. As art grew and changed, artists place in society changed with it. Most artists were known for their reputation.
Leonardo da Vinci was known as a great artist and sculptor. Michelangelo was honored by placing the David on the porch of the town hall in Florence. David became a symbol not only of the Renaissance, but the Florentines pride in their city. Raphael was associated with affection. He had the admiration of his fellow artists as a painter, and their love for him as a man. Raphael, known for his charm and kindness, could be considered the most universally popular artist. Bramante appointed him to become the next chief architect on St. Peters at his deathbed.
All painters were looked well upon, even if they did not have a personality to match their skills. Benvenuto Cellini was known to have a violent temper, be vengeful, make many enemies, be involved in brawls and murders, and flee from the law. Nevertheless, because he was a good artist, he was often excused for his bad behavior. Pope Paul III said that Men like Benvenuto, unique in their profession, stand above the law. Therefore, as art evolved and became more significant to society, artists were looked upon favorably and their positions changed.
In conclusion, the Renaissance was a period of great development and change, especially in the arts. Art was brought to another level by new techniques, influences, subjects, and the artists. Art became a thing of great admiration. As Paul Gauguin once said, “In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters. ” It is these masters in the Renaissance that revolutionized the meaning of art.