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Many of us today have things in our culture that we appreciate without thinking about where they have come from. The things we enjoy so much could be from another culture, and even another place in time. This document will explore the influence of Italian Renaissance art on today’s civilization, which has greatly changed the art of today.
The Renaissance was a time period that began in the early 1300’s and lasted into the 1600’s. It was a time when the philosophies of the ancient Greek and Romans were rediscovered, which took place after the Middle Ages. Many of the philosophies of the Middle Ages were no longer accepted, and the Renaissance brought about a revamped way of thinking and learning, based on the Greek and Roman culture. The thinkers and humanists had much to do with the direction of the Renaissance, but the artists also had significant importance. Artists are not philosophers, although in the Renaissance they come very close to sharing in the philosophical enterprise(Gardener 561). The Renaissance was about individualism. Renaissance painters were attempting to do the same as Renaissance writers, who wanted to interpret people and nature realistically (World Book) . Architects of the Middle Ages designed huge cathedrals to emphasize the majesty and grandeur of God. Renaissance architects designed buildings on a smaller scale
to help make people aware of their own powers and dignity (World Book). The artists of the Middle Ages focused primarily on religious subjects, not focusing on making their art realistic. During the Renaissance, all that changed. Artists then included an emphasis on human beings and the environment, which shown that this is indication of changes in their culture at the time. Renaissance individualism and realism found their greatest and most lasting representation in the visual arts (Walker 77).
There were many great artists spread across the time of the Renaissance. Some of them were leading the way in new artistic techniques created during the Renaissance, while others used inspiration from a past artisan to establish their own styles and methods. About a century before the art caught on, a Florentine painter by the name of Giotto was the first to break away from the Middle Age style of painting. Giotto was the towering artistic genius of the 14th century, so far ahead of his time that no other painter approached his level of work for almost a hundred years (Walker 78). Even though Giotto was ahead, he lacked the awareness of perspective, but he used space, light, and color to create a very strong sense of the human form, along with a storyteller’s ability to capture the central moment in a particular scene (Walker 78). One of the important pieces of the revolution that
Giotto started was that he established painting as a major art for the next six centuries, and he also founded the method of pictorial experiment through observation (Gardener 568). After Giotto there was a architect that came along in the early 1500’s that rediscovered the classical Greco-Roman style and the rediscovery of artificial perspective, which allows a painter to paint something three-dimensional on a two-dimensional plane (Walker 78). Some of his most famous works are the Cathedral Dome in Florence, and the bronze Baptistery doors he won a contest with. It was said that no space so vast had ever been spanned since the Pantheon in ancient Rome, and no dome had ever been built at this height about the huge dome that was built (Silver 162). There was also Michelangelo, who it was said that through him, art in Italy attained the ‘supreme perfection'(Silver 162). He produced a marble statue of David, which symbolized his own heroic personal striving to express spiritual beauty through art (Silver 162). The next vital artisan of the Renaissance was very diverse in what he specialized in. Today, we use the term Renaissance man to describe someone who can do many things well. Many of the Renaissance’s prominent figures deserved this description, but there is one that fits this description the most, Leonardo da Vinci. He painted, worked as an architect, engineer, and a general designer, of pageant scenery and costumes as
well as the design and preparation in clay of an equestrian monument(Silver 189).
Just like the artisans of the Renaissance, the artisans of today are supported by patrons of art. During the Renaissance, noble Italian families, wealthy merchants, and ruling families were the patrons that artisans depended on for their living (Hanes 373).
The Renaissance age of individualism has contributed greatly to civilization. Today, we might not be as expressive, or even have the right to be outspoken if it were not for the Renaissance. Today’s art might not be as lively or diverse. Just like during the time of the Italian Renaissance, the artist of today play an important role in our civilization. They take our cultures and ideas, and express them through their art. Even though it faded away 400 years ago, Italian Renaissance art still has a lasting affect on today’s civilization.
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New York: Facts on File, 1995.
Silver, Larry. Art In History.
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Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1990.