History of Classic Painting

History of Classic Painting

History of Classic Painting

History of Classic Painting

Excerpt

The term Renaissance designates that great intellectual and artistic revival which swept all European countries in the 15th and 16th centuries, and ushered in the historical period to which our own modern civilization belongs. We are, in short, the direct descendants of the Renaissance. In the Gothic countries, that is in Northern Europe, it took on the aspect of a revolution; whereas in Italy, where it had started much earlier, it continued to develop slowly and inevitably. The principle of the Renaissance is the substitution of knowledge through reason for knowledge through faith. In art this produced an ardent curiosity about nature which succeeded the unreal representations of the Middle Ages. In Italy, this intellectual rationalism was based upon the influence of Classic antiquity. The Northern countries sought in Italy their emancipation from the Middle Ages.

At the beginning of the 15th century, signs of the early Renaissance were already very apparent in Italy. Artists were no longer preoccupied solely by religious compositions, and began to turn their attention to the scenes of daily life. They also brought greater care to the study of the human form. At Verona, Pisanello endowed the Gothic arabesque with a purely Italian grace. He excelled at the accurate rendition of animals, and his portraits --such as that of Lionel d'Este at Bergamo , and of a Princess of the House of Este at the Louvre--recall the style of the Northern miniaturists.

Naturalism was the dominant preoccupation of Italian artists at this period. Fra Angelico, a Dominican monk whom popular fervor caused to be beatified, was both a naturalist and a mystic. Although intensely spiritual, he did not hesitate to introduce portraits into his compositions. He was and remains one of the world's great colorists, his forms subtly adapted to the mystic sentiments expressed. He treated only religious subjects, and it is said that he never took paint brush in hand without having first prayed with utmost fervor. Tradition adds that he was moved to tears when he painted Crucifixions.

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