Art During The Renaissance

The transition of the Middle Ages to modernity can be truly defined as the Renaissance. The word means ‘rebirth’ because it was a revival of classical literature and art. Occurring during the 15th & 16th century, this was a period of great social change in other disciplines as well. It was not only a cultural movement but a revolution in industrial and scientific fields too. Renaissance began in Florence, Italy and spread gradually throughout Europe and also to American, African and Asian territories ruled by the European colonial powers.

The works of most famous artist of the proto-renaissance period, Giotto di Bondone (12th century), reveals a new pictorial form that reflects more realism, appears more three dimensional, classicist and has great psychological penetration rather than the flat, linear decorative style and hierarchical compositions of his predecessors and contemporaries, such as the Florentine painter Cimabue and the Sienese painters Duccio and Simone Martini. Apart from painting there was a significant revival of classical learning in literature. The great poet Dante, one of the contemporaries of Giotto, has shown similar concern of inward experience and the subtle shades and variations of human nature in his poems. 

The increased awareness of nature and individualistic view of man were also reflecting on the architecture, sculptures, music during the Renaissance period. Bronze doors were commissioned for churches, palaces and monasteries which were commissioned by wealthy merchant families. One of the famous Italian Renaissance sculptors was Lorenzo Ghhiberti popularly known for his gilded bronze doors who later influenced sculptors like Michaelangelo and Auguste Rodin. His bronze doors named -Gates of Paradise; 1425–52) for the Baptistery of the cathedral of Florence are considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian art. He also held workshops to carry out large commission works where many artists trained, including Donatello, Masolino, Paolo Uccello, and Antonio del Pollaiuolo.

Masaccio is often called the founder of Renaissance painting due to the intellectuality of his conceptions, the monumentality of his compositions, and the high degree of naturalism in his works. He laid foundations of the later modern conceptual and stylistic western painting by radically transforming Florentine paintings. He died at the young age of 27 however in a short span of six years, he was the first to fully master depth and perspective on a two-dimensional surface. 

The art of the High Renaissance flourished for about 35 years from the early 15th century marked by three towering artists- Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. Known for his artistic genius and scientific predictions, Leonardo was also credited for inventing new techniques in painting like sfumato and chiaroscuro. Michelangelo, popularly known for his highly realistic representation of human anatomies in his sculptures, is also famous for his paintings on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. Raphael, the versatile master painter and architect was known for his serene representations of classical harmony and clarity, his large figure compositions and use of aerial and linear perspectives in his works. Some of his notable works are School of Athens, La Belle Jardinière, The Triumph of Galatea, Disputation of the Most Holy Sacrament and Marriage of the Virgin. 

Renaissance is marked by a gradual shift from abstract connotations of the medieval period to more representational forms in the 15th century where the subjects included episodes from Classical religion as well as contemporary life events and self portraits which became a significant turning point in the history of art.

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