Sunday, 20 February 2011

Renaissance and the Apollo

The Renaissance started in Italy in the 15th Century and was an attempt to revive the greatness that they had had in the classical age with the Roman Empire.  All things classical were admired and artists tried to emulate the lifelike qualities of ancient Greek and Roman works such as The Apollo Belvedere rediscovered in the 15th C. 

They believed that  
“art , science and scholarship had flourished in the classical period, that all these things had been almost destroyed by the northern barbarians and that it was for them to help to revive the glorious past and thus bring about a new era.” (Grombrich:224)
Artists were keen to portray forms in a more realistic way and take inspiration from nature.  Form and proportion became important and the mathematical discovery of perspective by architect and artist Filippo Brunelleschi was a revelation.

Holy Trinity with the Virgin, St John and donors.
Masaccio 1425 - 8 

One of the first pictures to make use of this is the picture of the Holy Trinity with the Virgin, St John and donors by Masaccio 1425-8.

These new discoveries created a stir all over Europe and artists everywhere began to experiment and to search for new and startling effects. Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1548) was the first artist North of the Alps to utilise these theories in his work. He was also a supporter of the reformation of the Church as proposed by Martin Luther.

This quote from shows the importance of Durer:

Durer's varied interest in nature and the environment, his study of the works of other masters, and his inspired ability to transform this innovatively, contributed to the important stimulus he gave to the historical development of art, starting north of the Alps, but eventually extending throughout Europe. For example, he was the first artist north of the Alps to paint a self-portrait, and his watercolors were the first autonomous landscape depictions that were freed from the context of Christian iconography.

Albrech Durer
Portrait in a fur collared robe
Image from

Gombrich.E.H, The Story of Art, (1995), Phaidon Press Ltd, New York

Durer was not only a prolific artist but also a theorist and his Four Books on Human Proportions published after his death in 1548 linked the depection of body types with differing proportions to the teaching of the four humors, and as such was the first to indicate the connection between build and character.
 Then truly, art is present in nature, and whoever can rip it out has got it; Durer in his Four Books on Human Proportions.

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