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renaissance art

November 11, 2015

Botticelli, Michelangelo, and the importance of drawing

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera; Allegory of Spring, c. 1478, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by ©SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera; Allegory of Spring, c. 1478, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by ©SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com

Kenyon Cox (1856-1919) might now be best remembered for his murals in the Library of Congress, as well as in the state capitol buildings of Des Moines, St. Paul, and Madison, but he was also a respected writer and influential teacher. In 1911, he delivered a series of lectures on painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, later published as The Classic Point of View. His accessible writing style and his infectious enthusiasm for the Old Masters still speak to us today. Following is an excerpt from his lecture on the importance of drawing, focusing on the work of Botticelli and Michelangelo.

Drawing is a great expressional art and deals with beauty and significance, not with mere fact. Its great masters are the greatest artists that ever lived, and high attainment in it has always been rarer than high attainment in color. Its tools are the line and so much of light and shade as is necessary to convey the sense of bulk and modelling, anything more being something added for its own beauty and expressiveness, not a part of the sources of the draftsman. Its aims are, first, to develop in the highest degree the abstract beauty and significance possessed by lines in themselves, more or less independently of representation; second, to express with the utmost clearness and force the material significance of objects and, especially, of the human body. According as one or the other of these aims predominates we have one or the other of the two great schools into which draftsmen may be divided. These schools may be typified by the greatest masters of each, the school of Botticelli, or the school of pure line; the school of Michelangelo, or the school of significant form. Between these lie all the law and the prophets. Of course no artist ever belonged entirely and exclusively to either school. It is always a matter of balance and the predominance of interest. Even a Botticelli tried to put some significant form inside his beautiful lines, and even Michelangelo gave thought to the abstract beauty of his lines apart from the significant form they bounded.

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February 23, 2015

The secret names of Italian Renaissance artists

Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo), Angel Playing a Lute, 1521, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo), Angel Playing a Lute; detail, 1521, Galleria degli Uffizi. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com; (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Have you ever wondered why you rarely see the names of the greats from the Italian Renaissance reoccur in art history?  Why do we not see more than one artist with names such as Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, or Tintoretto? It’s because a lot of these were not really names, they were nicknames! Some, like Verrocchio (“true eye”), were flattering, while others, like Guercino (“squinter”), not so much.

Here’s a list of some of the most memorable names from the Renaissance and what they really mean:

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December 8, 2014

The travels and travails of the Mona Lisa

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Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1506, Musée du Louvre. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

In 2012, 150,000 people signed a petition asking the Louvre to return Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to its “home city” of Florence, Italy. Not surprisingly, the Louvre declined. The Mona Lisa has done its share of traveling in the past 500 years, and more often than not it has proven nerve racking.

Before we get to the travel stories, let’s look at Florence’s claim. Leonardo da Vinci did start painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in the Italian city, but in 1516 he was invited by King François I to work in France, and scholars believe he finished the painting there, and there it has remained. After Leonardo’s death, the king bought the Mona Lisa and exhibited it at the Palace of Fontainebleau, its home for more than 100 years, until Louis XIV took it to the Palace of Versailles.

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