Renaissance Art

The rise of Renaissance culture was predetermined by the assortment of disparate events and ideas surfacing during the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries. The most important concept to come out of all the innovative developments of the late fourteenth century was a renewed belief in the power and the majesty of the human being. An interest to individuality was a line of demarcation between the medieval period, where God was the center and the epoch of Renaissance. The changes that occur in the arts relate to that increased interest to human too.

For instance, the human nude makes an undeniable resurgence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries after being absent from Western art since antiquity. The issue of a body as a symbol of sexuality became equated no so much with sin as with nature. Giotto di Bondone (1266 – 1337) is the artist who initiated the decisive pictorial break. Many of the most important attributes of the Renaissance culture are inextricably linked to Giotto’s attempts at constructing more convincing sense of space on a painted surface.

The most common way to produce an illusion of volume is to convince a viewer that elements within the scene exist in light and shadow. Giotto’s successful use of light enabled the inner space of painting to recede. According to Vasari it was Giotto who first attempted the device of foreshortening to produce an illusionistic space within the plane of painting (Vasari, 1998). This technique mimics everyday perception as things closer to us appear larger than those in the distance. This technique came to be referred to as linear perspective also used by Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446).

However, Brunelleschi’s discoveries in architecture were even more revolutionary. In construction The Dome of Florence Cathedral Brunelleschi after thorough study of ancient building projects in Rome suggested that a dome can be build without buttressing and implemented classical vaulting techniques. One of the results of the perspectival rendering was the development of volume in painting. Masaccio (1401 – 1428) was one of the early masters who assimilated the complementary notions of volume and perspective. During the period of High Renaissance the art center shifts from Florence to Rome and Venice.

The period is identified with the quest for scientific precision and greater realism combined in the balance of harmony of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. The influence of Humanism is reflected in the increase of secular subjects. In the final phase of the Renaissance, Mannerism became the dominant style. Among the significant novelties of the Renaissance was that for the first time in almost thousand years, both artists and their painted figures became individuals. Today we know the names of these artists unlike those anonymous contributors to the glory of Church.

The renaissance has historically held a prominent position in Western art. The period between the mid-fourteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries is viewed as culmination of a general rebirth of humanistic pursuits and a freeing of the artist from the restrictive dogma of the medieval Church. The status of art and the artist shifted significantly and our contemporary views on both are based very much on certain assumptions about the role and rationale of art in culture that were first developed during the Renaissance.

It was in the Renaissance that the role of artist went from simple maker to that of creator (with individual genius) – the appellation once reserved only to God. As a consequence, art took on even greater significance becoming not only an expression of its age and its means of production but also the very embodiment of genius. In this way the Renaissance has played a fundamental role in shaping the way we think about art.