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Art History: The Renaissance

Guest Post by Megan Mayfield, MOA Marketing Intern

Guest Post by Megan Mayfield, MOA Marketing Intern Growing out of the Medieval era, the Renaissance was a time of new inventions and a new way of looking at the world. Artists took up their charge and changed the style of art as well. During the 13th-14th centuries, Rome and Florence exploded as the cultural center for the Renaissance. Filled with ancient history and a strong religious presence, the art took on a combination of ancient and religious subject matter. Artists looked back to the styles of Greece and Rome and to create realistic art that served to inspire and educate.

Renaissance art is classified by a focus on religious subject matter in a realistic style. Even though many works from the Renaissance are now seen as priceless masterpieces, they were mere devotional objects during the Renaissance, used in churches and public places for worship. Because of this, there are many scenes of Christ, Mary, and other religious subject matter in all sorts of forms. Sculpture, painting, and fresco were popular mediums to create these scenes.

Raphael, “The School of Athens,” 1509-1511

However, Christianity wasn’t the only place artists were drawing their influence. The Renaissance, with a focus on antiquity, also drew on mythological and historical subjects.

The School of Athens, by Raphael, for example, is a fresco that depicts all the great thinkers from the past including Plato and Aristotle. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is another good example of mythological subject matter during the Renaissance. This classical image was copied and reworked well into the Baroque and later.

The focus on realism in the human form and in the landscape sets Renaissance art apart from the earlier Medieval era. Instead of the exclusive creation of devotional images and churches, a newfound interest in science and history shaped the Renaissance into the start of an entirely new artistic era that fed into the Baroque, Romantic, Neoclassic, and later traditions.