The Humanism has had a great influence on all intellectual achievements during the renaissance. By trying to reject the medieval as whole and turning back to classical learning, emphasizing nature and adopting a more individualistic view on man, they believed to ‘rebirth’ classical learning, literature and art. Even though the renaissance should mark an abrupt break with the medieval, renaissance art is already being found in the medieval period, in particular in Italy, where the renaissance was preceded by the “proto-renaissance” in late 13th and early 14th centuries.
The most famous artist of the proto-renaissance was Giotto di Bondone. In his art, the human figure got represented with an increased naturalism, compared to his contemporaries and his architectural and landscape settings appeared true to life. His art already had the characteristics, that you would later see in proper renaissance art. The influence that his art already has had during his lifetime was enormous, why he got celebrated as a pioneering artist and got acknowledged as the leading artist by many. Unfortunately, the terrible plague of 1358 and civil wars prevented the interest in individualism and naturalism that got revealed by his work to grow and the revival of humanistic studies to revive until the beginning of the 15th century (Encyclopedia Britannica).
The beginning of the renaissance (the early renaissance) takes mostly place in Florence in the beginning of the 15th century. Florence was extremely favorable for artists during this time, why it was the centre of artistic innovation. Some of the artists followed the steps of Giotto. Inside of the theme and setting of Christian art, they increased the degree of naturalism. Other artists were reflecting the historical and classical interests of their patrons. In general, the early renaissance marked a shift away from the exclusive religious art. Subjects for art, like classical mythology, portraiture and landscape became acceptable. Later the involvement of patrons would also lead to a rising status of visual arts. Especially during the Time of Leonardo da Vinci, who’s naturalism would later transition into the high renaissance. Painting and sculpture were considered lower in stand than liberal arts, because they required manual labour instead of being based on mathematics. According to Leonardo, “With justifiable complaints painting laments that it has been dismissed from the number of the liberal arts, since she is the legitimate daughter of nature and acts through the noblest sense. Thus it is wrong, O writers, to have omitted her from the number of the liberal arts, since she embraces not only the works of nature but also infinite things which nature never created” (Universal Leonardo).
Even though Leonardo did not directly invent the methods and styles of renaissance painting, he almost brought it to perfection. On the opposite, you can talk about a decline of art in Germany during the protestant reformation in the same time. The reformation played a great role in the decline of German art. It is argued that “it led to a sizeable decrease in commissions given to painters, sculptors and goldsmiths, to a diminution in their numbers and wealth, and hence to a crucial weakening of the artistic community from which the masterpieces of the German Renaissance had emerged ” (Christens 54) .
Looking at renaissance art, you can not overlook the circumstances from which all the art emerged. Especially interesting to see is artists in Florence fighting for a higher stand and making great accomplishments, while the reformation in Germany leads to a decline in this matter. Ultimately the humanism played a great role for the renaissance and influenced its art through a change of values that came along with it. It should not be forgotten, that the accomplishments from the renaissance epoch were made under difficult circumstances of plagues and war.
- Christensen, C. “Art and the Reformation in Germany”. 1979. Athens and Detroit: Ohio University Press. Print.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Renaissance Art.” 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2017. https://www.britannica.com/art/Renaissance-art.
- Universal Leonardo. “Paragone: Painting or Sculpture?.” 2012. Web. 6 Mar. 2017. http://www.universalleonardo.org/essays.php?id=575.