The Renaissance was a great cultural movement that started in Italy in the 1300’s and spread through Europe.
By 1600, the Renaissance had affected nearly all of Europe.
Florence, Italy, and the European region of Flanders were the centres of the Renaissance art movement.
History of Renaissance Art
The word renaissance comes from the Latin word rinascere, which means reborn, or rebirth.
During the Renaissance, artists tried to recapture the spirit of ancient Greece and Rome art in their own artistic work. Like ancient Greek and Roman art, Renaissance art often focused on religious subject matters. Renaissance painters used aspects of Roman statues and architecture in their paintings.
The beginning of the Renaissance overlapped with a period of time in European history called the Middle Ages.
During the Middle Ages, people believed their biggest responsibility was to serve God and save their souls. Renaissance thinkers and artists rebelled against this idea, turning their attention to issues of people’s responsibilities and duties to society.
While artists in the Middle Ages painted human figures that looked stiff and unrealistic for religious purposes, renaissance painters stressed the beauty and majesty of the human body.
In the 1200’s, Florentine painter Giotto was the first artist to depict people and nature realistically. He was the first artist to create frescoes, or paintings on damp plaster.
Giotto’s work portrayed great emotion, and his paintings were set in realistic settings. Although Giotto lived before the Renaissance, his work influenced many Renaissance painters, architects, and sculptors.
Noteworthy Renaissance Artists
Some of the most important early Renaissance artists included architect Filippo Brunelleschi, painter Masaccio, and sculptor Donetaello.
Brunelleschi was the first architect to revive the Roman style of architecture. He was also the first Renaissance artist to use linear perspective which created the effects of space and depth on a flat surface.
Masaccio was well known for his series of religious frescoes he painted in the Branacci Chapel in 1427.
Donatello was the famous Renaissance sculptor who made the human body look realistic and dignified.
Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci
Renaissance art flourished through the late 1400’s and 1500’s.
During this time period, the art movement was dominated by three artists: Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Michelangelo was an accomplished Renaissance poet, painter, architect, and sculpture. He was a master of the human form. Michelangelo created many magnificent sculptures and helped create and build many churches throughout Italy. He is most famous for creating the magnificent fresco ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.
Raphael was a famous Renaissance painter. His work was characterised by soft lines and poetic forms. Raphael is most famous for beautiful paintings of Madonna and his portraits of the Holy Family. Raphael’s work had strong links with Roman and Greek art.
Leonardo da Vinci was another famous Renaissance artist. He had a great hunger for knowledge -he explored many different fields, including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, geometry, anatomy, invention, engineering, and astronomy.
Da Vinci painted some of the world’s great masterpieces, including The Last Supper and Mona Lisa, and is credited for designing many inventions that paved the way towards modern technology.
Adoption of Renaissance Art Through Europe
The Renaissance movement spread through the rest of Europe when merchants, bankers, diplomats, and scholars visited Italy.
During the 1400’s and 1500’s, Italy was continually invaded by France, Germany, and Spain. The invaders became very taken with Italian Renaissance art and philosophy, and they spread the Renaissance movement to their home countries.
The Renaissance movement influenced many other art movements, including Mannerism and Venetian painting.
The Renaissance movement ended in approximately 1600, and was replaced by the Baroque movement.
Other Art Movements
- Abstract Expressionism
- Academic Art
- Art Deco
- Art Nouveau
- Conceptual Art
- Figurative Art
- Naive Art
- Pop Art
- Surrealism / Surrealist Art