most praiseworthy form of painting is the
one that most resembles what it imitates.
-- Leonardo da Vinci
the European Middle
Ages, painting largely focused on Christian themes.
as the Renaissance
emerged more interest was shown in Ancient Greek and Roman
classical art. The gradual shift to more secular subjects and more secular funding led to many changes in both the technical
aspects of painting as well as the subject matter.
Lines drawn over "The Annunciation" focus the viewer's attention on da Vinci's use of perspective.
Based on experiments by the famous Renaissance architect Brunelleschi, new techniques in Renaissance perspective were adopted by painters
who began to enhance the realism of their work and for the first time rendering the world in three dimensions. They also began incorporating stylistic innovations that more realistically contrasted the play between natural light and shadow.
In addition to linear perspective, which used a vanishing point to guide the artist, there were other techniques that were adopted to create the illusion of depth. These included atmospheric perspective which incorporated hazy details as the painting regressed into the background. Color perspective was also first used during the Renaissance, which held that the further away a landscape was viewed the bluer in tone it became.
Besides cool-headed geometry and science that brought paintings to life like never before, the Renaissance proved to be a hotbed of rebellion against the established order. Gone were the days of a medieval reliance on Mother Church and the strict rules of propriety that constrained artistic expression.
The availability of funding from nobles and rich merchants opened an era of individualist spirit that was championed by the likes of painter/sculptor Michelangelo - who famously signed his Pieta so that onlookers would know it was he who created it. Hardly the self effacing humility of the church based artists!
Detail from Van Eyck's Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini
and his Wife.
finally asserting itself. Artists began depicting themes from ancient mythology
in addition to Christian subject matter.
This genre of art
is often referred to as Renaissance classicism, and (in addition
to Michelangelo) had its other chief proponents in Leonardo
da Vinci and Raphael.
equally important but less well-known figure of the Renaissance
was Flemish painter Jan
van Eyck who is often attributed with "bringing the
Renaissance North" with near photo-realistic depictions
of people and everyday household objects as seen in Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife.