To better explore a culture, to better examine the past and to better understand the history and people that came before us, we can study art. In some form, art has existed essentially since the dawn of time. Like people and cultures, through, art has changed. Looking, even casually, at art from the past, ignoring the subtleties and nuances that each artist inserts into their own work still sheds light on the changes that humankind has undergone throughout time. Here on and concurrently on, I will continue to walk through various periods of time and the corresponding artists, themes and motifs found in each.

Happy reading.

Early Renaissance Art

Welcome to one of the single most influential periods of art that we’ve seen as a civilization to date. Literally meaning “rebirth,” the Renaissance period was home to artists whose names have lived on until today in the mouths of art lovers, text books and on the walls of museums; names like Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci–guys you’ve probably heard of a few times.

The rebirth characterized by the Renaissance wasn’t limited to art–not even close. The very lives and ways of living that those in the Renaissance period experienced featured a marked shift towards intellectualism and cultural reinvention. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick to the art and culture that changed in the early Renaissance period; covering the whole period is more worthy of a term paper or research report than a blog post.

Most of the Renaissance period (or, at least what art scholars and historians like to consider the Renaissance period) took place between 1400 and 1600, give or take a few years and depending on how stringent you’d like to be.

The period got its start initially pre-1400 in Italy, though the movement didn’t fully come into itself until about 1400, when the Netherlands and Italy developed seemingly concurrent styles independently of one another.

Causes of Italy’s rebirth into the classical world are numerous, including the rediscovery and thirst for new knowledge from older classical written works. Now with a stable government at their back and prosperity ahead, the people of Italy began to discover how meaningful delving into cultural philosophy and classical knowledge could be.

Like so many things in life, competition was one of the driving forces credited with bringing the Renaissance into existence in Italy–more specifically, a competition to craft a set of bronze doors for a cathedral in Florence. The competitors included Lorenzo Ghiberti, the winner, and Donatello, one of art history’s most revered Renaissance artists.

The artwork in the early Renaissance period was, as you may expect, heavily influenced by both Greek and Roman history as well as religion. The works were often more meticulously created, going so far as to utilize mathematical and scientific principles to perfect each piece. Three-dimensional art pieces that made use of shadows and depth techniques as well as strong geometric guidelines helped to define early Renaissance art.