Renaissance, a revolution in the paint

Renaissance, a revolution in the paint
Isabel del Rio

Renaissance, a revolution in the paint. We are accustomed to hear about the Industrial Revolution or the Neolithic Revolution, never about the Renaissance Revolution but, well, we learn by heart phrases and Renaissance is associated with Rebirth and not with Revolution.

However, in my opinion during the Renaissance happened radical changes in the European society so important as those of the Industrial Revolution.

Renaissance. The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli

Renaissance. The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. This event is itself a Revolution, the start of a new more universal mentality of those people who were trying to build and to sculpt as the old Greek and Roman artists did: Brunelleschi, Alberti, Donatello… An artistic time for the artistic Florence where the Medici family protected the humanists: the Renaissance was turning from God to man, and science and arts were becoming essential and more popular thanks to the invention of the printing books and even press. It will be the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes, of the secular music with a rise in instrumental music and dance music too. Magallanes and Juan Sebastian Elcano will travel around the world and Francisco de Vitoria will create the international law. It will be the time of Thomas Moro and Machiavelli, of Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, our Earth never again will be the center of the universe, although Catholics and Protestants were fighting in the name of a increasingly strange God.

Renaissance. David by Donatello

Renaissance. David by Donatello

And what did it happen with the paint?

In Italy two tendencies will lay the foundation of the future way of painting in the Occidental countries during the 15th century. Sandro Botticelli’s tendency, still an evolution of the Gothic painting with his elongated figures with long wavy hair, eternally blond, but figures which evocated the mythological world rejected during the Middle Ages: ‘The Birth of Venus’, ‘Venus and Mars’, ‘Pallas and the Centaur’, ‘The Three Graces‘… and scenes which were looking for a perspective, for getting the three dimensions (something never got before). The other tendency will be leaded by Masaccio or Piero della Francesca and their realism will continue during the 16th century with the greatest Italian painters: Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo, this time in Rome and under the protection of the Pope.And what did it happen with the paint?

Nevertheless, not only Florence or Rome were important centers of art during the 15th and 16th centuries. Venice (Titian, Tintoretto or Veronese), following another way, will arrive to fantastic achievements. Firstly, they invented the canvas (the Bellini family of artists) and all its possibilities to paint different transparencies and light effects and afterwards, their technique, based on stains and no in rigid profiles, will bring new more realistic possibilities.

Renaissance. Portrait, by Jan van Eyck

Renaissance. Portrait, by Jan van Eyck

But all this approach to realism would have been impossible without the Flemish family Van Eyck. They invented oil painting and nobody can be truly realistic with watercolors or egg painting.

Definitely, Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early modern age, and if we see previous paintings (mostly religious and without perspective, proportion or movement) we are speaking of a complete change, of a Revolution similar to the discovery of America.

Renaissance. Moses by Michelangelo

Renaissance. Moses by Michelangelo

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