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The 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 was as the name implies the rebirth of painting. This does not imply that all the advances of painting came from this period but that the masters learned to combine new and old. The Italian artist Masaccio, was referred to by some as the father of Renaissance painting. Masaccio made notable advances in the styles of paintings such as perspective, space, and surrounding his subjects in light and air. 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 artist who deserve recognition in the early part of the Italian renaissance are Brunilleschi 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 of scientific perspective. This barrel vaulted chamber is a place that the figures could move freely if they wished. For the first time in history, we are given all the needed data to measure the depth of this painted interior. We note that all the 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 while 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. It did however lack Masaccio’s monumentality and severity and could be considered even cluttered.
Masaccio was said to be absent minded, whimsical, and one who paid little attention to himself and others but the contribution he made to the advancement in paintings changed it forever. The renaissance period continued to flourish and produce many more masters in the field of painting.
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Western art, Renaissance art, Masaccio, Birds in art, Holy Trinity, Renaissance, Perspective, Italian art, Giotto, Brancacci Chapel, Italian Renaissance painting
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