Simply, I love Renaissance art, the artists, the culture, the history. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Universidade Nova De Lisboa, in my home country of Portugal. I then studied for a Masters in the birthplace of the Renaissance, at the SACI (Studio Arts College International) in Florence, becoming immersed in the Renaissance culture and art scene as well as the vibrant contemporary art world.
With access to world-famous galleries and museums, including the Uffizi Gallery's Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe (drawings and prints)., I stayed in Florence after graduation, enjoying the lifestyle and culture whilst throwing in visits to Rome for the Vatican Museums and Doria Pamphilj Gallery and Naples for the Capodimonte Museum in particular before returning home to Portugal where I have taught several workshops, lecturing both in the classroom and on location in museums, churches and cultural sites.
Between 1400 and 1600, Italy was at the centre of a revival of drawing, fine art painting, sculpture and architecture, now referred to as the Renaissance. Following on from the stately Gothic style, this was art that re-established the principles of classical Greek and Roman art, in particular, sculpture and painting.
The drive for Renaissance art came from what was then a new notion of "Humanism," a philosophy from ancient pagan Greece, which softened religious and secular beliefs, putting greater on the dignity and worth of the individual. Yet religious art still flourished, as evidenced by The Son of Man from The Last Judgement fresco on the wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, considered one of the great works of Biblical art in the Vatican which was painted by Michelangelo between 1536-41. There were many other masterpieces of religious art, in this period that can be seen in architectural designs, altarpieces, sculpture and painting. Read about the other perspectives of the Humanism .
Humanism in the arts meant the emergence of the individual rather than symbolic figures. This greater realism required great attention to detail and realism in body shape and human faces, which is why classical art was so revered. There was also an emphasis on living a virtuous life, of good and righteous work as a way of controlling one’s own destiny rather than believing in fate or God for the outcome of one’s life. This was reflected in the message of paintings which examined vice and human evil. The classical spirit of the Renaissance can be perfectly seen in Raphael's masterpiece School of Athens (1509-11) in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Raphael Rooms at the Vatican.
Economic, social and political factors were all at a point where it was possible for the Renaissance to grow. In the late fourteenth century, increased wealth in Germany and in Italy, thanks to trade with the Orient had brought riches. Florence, a centre for wool and silk, was also home to the wealthy Medici family who provided the financial support for a growing number of commissions of large public and private art projects.
The Church at this time was struggling with disagreements about spiritual and secular issues, which allowed the philosophy of Humanism to spread with little resistance. With a loss of influence, the Vatican spent vast sums on architecture, sculpture and painting in Rome and in the Vatican itself, such as the Sistine Chapel frescoes in an attempt to regain their previous influence.
In art history, the Renaissance era parallels the onset of the Western age of discovery. With new sea, routes came new continents and colonies, and European artists realized their own wishes to study and imitate nature using new methods and knowledge.
Italy was the richest trading nation in Europe and the Orient and had vast classical ruins and artefacts in almost every town and city, including copies of lost sculptures from ancient Greece. Also, the decline of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, saw an increase of Greek scholars emigrating to Italy, with important texts and knowledge of classical Greek civilization. The development of the Renaissance was driven by the painters, sculptors, architects and designers and their art during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in different Italian cities, with the Lorenzetti brothers and Sassetta in Siena; Giotto, Masaccio, Brunelleschi and Leonardo in Florence; Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome under the patronage of the Popes and Mantegna, the Bellini family, Titian and Tintoretto in Venice.
The ideas and achievements of both Early and High Renaissance artists had a huge impact on the painters and sculptors who followed in all the official academies of art across Europe, including the French Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the Royal Academy in London. Later, a hierarchy of painting genres, modelled on Renaissance philosophy, was created: history painting; portrait art; genre painting; landscape and still life.
In Italian Renaissance art, the landscape evolved from symbolic backdrops to centrally placed figures to actually being relevant to the mood of the protagonists. There was a move away from stylised perspectives to a naturalistic representation to reflect the growing interest in realism among artists. Leonardo da Vinci is credited for taking a radical departure from his Florentine contemporaries in depicting the landscape and by the 1500s landscape painting became more evocative of a particular mood using light and colour, also reflected in the depiction of love and romance.