Italian Renaissance: The ancestors of man were experimenting with art over 12 thousand years ago. Paintings as far back as 15,000 to 10,000 BC have been found in caves. Our history of painting was slow to mature into the art we know and appreciate today. The most prolific period was the Renaissance period, with some of the best known masters being represented by this period.
The Italian Renaissance, as the name implies, was the rebirth of painting. This does not imply that all the advances in painting came from this period, but rather that the masters learned to combine new and old techniques. The Italian artist Masaccio was referred to by some as the father of Renaissance painting. He made notable advances in painting styles, such as perspective, space, and the use of light and air to surround his subjects. Masaccio was the next great Italian painter after Giotto, who died in 1337. Giotto, who painted during the Gothic period, was able to display naturalistic human dramas and used characteristics with Renaissance qualities.
Some of these were showing figures as solid and weighty characters. Masaccio recognized what Giotto had initiated and brought it forward with other characteristics, as previously mentioned. The other two artists who deserve recognition in the early part of the Italian Renaissance are Brunelleschi and Donatello for their innovations in linear perspective in sculpture and architecture. An important scientific innovation by Masaccio was in the Holy Trinity with the Virgin and St. John.
The setting reveals a complete command of Brunelleschi’s new architecture and scientific perspective. This barrel-vaulted chamber is a place where figures could move freely if they wished. For the first time in history, we are given all the necessary data to measure the depth of this painted interior. We note that all lines perpendicular to the picture plane converge upon a point below the foot of the cross, on the platform that supports the kneeling donors. To see the fresco properly, we must face this point, which is at normal eye level, somewhat more than five feet above the floor of the church. Masaccio had a very short career that ended at age 27 when he died in Rome.
His death left a gap that was not filled for some time. Fra Filippo Lippi seems to have had close contact with Masaccio and used many of his techniques. However, it lacked Masaccio’s monumentality and severity and could be considered cluttered. Masaccio was said to be absent-minded and whimsical, paying little attention to himself and others. But the contribution he made to the advancement of painting changed it forever. The Renaissance period continued to flourish and produce many more masters in the field of painting.