The Italian Renaissance Artists
The Italian Renaissance affected world and European culture in a huge variety of ways. Throughout history, perhaps no time had a greater influence on art than the Renaissance, which took place between 1400 and 1527. The early Renaissance, when Botticelli and Angelico began experiments with realism, took place between 1400 and 1490. The High Renaissance occurs after that, between 1490 and 1527, when artists like Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael were at work .
While the precise cause of the Renaissance isn’t known, some scholars believe that the shift occurred due to Italy’s economic instability, and the 14th century lack of investment opportunities prompting the wealthy to fund the arts instead. As such, interest in art expanded and this effect lasted for several centuries.
With methods ranging from painting to sculpture and architecture, prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci created new ways to experiment with perspective and naturalism. They expanded art to reach new expressive heights. In painting, the Renaissance led to a surge in realism. Artists worked to create art that copied life, as seen in the iconic Mona Lisa where Da Vinci uses soft blurred edges and realistic shadows, producing an image of a contemporary figure. Michelangelo’s David is another example of the growing realism movement at the time.
Additionally, a new type of painting was created: fresco. By applying paint onto wet plaster, frescoes are art pieces that have a matte surface, last for a long time, and are full of color. A good example is Raphel’s School of Athens.
The most famous Renaissance paintings are perhaps those of Botticelli. The Birth of Venus and Primavera are regarded as some of the greatest Renaissance art, being experimental at the time due to their huge size and subject matter.
The Renaissance wasn’t limited to just art. In architecture, the Renaissance conveys an interest in symmetry, arches, and molding. This led to world-famous creations such as Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence and the façade of St. Pater’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Bold Italian writers such as Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Montagne took inspiration from Latin and Greek literature to create works with the richness of classical authors. Musical composers including Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, and Garbieli began experiments with interweaved polyphony to create beautiful harmonies, much more layered than medieval precedents .
Many of the great artists of the renaissance were polymaths—they were skilled not only in art and music, but also science. Perhaps the most famous Renaissance artist was Leonardi Da Vinci, who is often referred to as “Renaissance man” due to his wide-ranging specialties including engineering, science, painting, architecture, and invention.
Polymaths are a testament to the Renaissance perspective of learning being a lifelong passion. Seen as a golden period of advancement, it has influenced creatives for centuries with iconic works serving as great inspiration.
Today, the Italian Renaissance is often quoted as the very height of art history. With its strong features, and emphasis on balance and humanism, the art produced in this time continues to have vast influences on the world today.