Renaissance through Impressionism Art has taken us through a roller coaster ride in the past. From ancient cave drawings to early architecture, from the “Mona Lisa” to the “Water Lilies”, art has gone through so many movements that it is difficult to keep up with. In this paper, I will talk about the eras from Renaissance to the movement of Impressionism. Not only will I talk about the different eras, but some pieces that were involved in the movements.
Renaissance Era: The Renaissance Era ranged from c. 1400 to 1600. It is said that the spark that started the renaissance flame came from a life that lay dormant in Italy. After almost a millennium, the people of Italy came back to life and began to focus more on humanity than focusing on religion. People began to learn more and study the glory of art, and there was a belief in the power of the human being. In the art, more sculptures and paintings were depicting nude humans. The body had become more of a vessel for pleasure because of the lack of pleasure before the era. Three-dimensional space was the new fad of the renaissance. Sculpture was three hundred and sixty degrees instead of relief sculptures; paintings had a sense of three-dimensional space (Kissick 168-176).
The piece of art that I want to discuss from the Renaissance era is “School of Athens”. This piece was done in the high Renaissance era by Raphael, in 1508. This is a fresco, which means that the paint was applied to plaster so it would soak in and dry hard. The “School of Athens” is 26 ft x 18ft in size and it is found in Rome. This piece is a homage of sorts to ancient philosophers with the likes of Plato and Aristotle centering the work. This piece is rather intriguing because of all of the different figures standing around. It looks as though Joan of Arc is standing off to the left and if I remember correctly, the gentleman to the right is a representation of Socrates. I am personally fond of this piece because of the great talent that was put into it as well as the style. The arches in the background are, in essence, a halo to the two fathers of philosophy. The arches form a ring around their heads as if they were deity. This piece is a good representation of the Renaissance era because it is a focus on humanities, being the philosophers of the past (Kissick 206-208).
Baroque. The Baroque period was from c. 1600 to 1750. The root of the word is not specifically known but one thing is certain: the term represents artwork of complex, intricate, or irregular substance. The renaissance restricted the people of the era and now the Baroque period is freeing those people. Probably the most important happening of the time that had a profound impact on the period was the reformation led my Martin Luther. The protesting of the Catholic Church allowed for a reformation of several aspects of the time. Music, for one, was changed. Hymns were a new way that Luther found to teach and celebrate his newly found religion. Art, however, was not tolerated in the church. There were too many different ways in which one could support the Catholic Church indirectly with art. This opened up the market for visual art to be sold to the middle class.
The piece that I wish to study from the Baroque period is the “Death of the Virgin” by Caravaggio produced in 1605-6. This piece is oil on canvas and is 12’1″ x 8’1/2″. “Death of the Virgin” resides in the Louvre in Paris. I enjoy this piece almost as much as I enjoy the “School of Athens”. I used to know quite a bit about this piece but my memory is slipping. The color of red is supposed to represent something, weather it be death, virginity, or deity I am not sure. Something that I read in the text that I found interesting is that the Virgin was actually a painting of a drowned prostitute, which upset the church. The colors are the most intriguing part of this painting though. The morbid feeling was captured with the dark shadows of brown that drape over the characters in this piece. I look at this piece and it represents the Baroque period rather accurately. The period itself is a rise of freedom from the church and renaissance era and the painting depicts the death of the Virgin Mary. Coincidence, I think not. The wrinkles in the skin and the way that the clothes drape over the body are wonderful examples of the detail that were added to art in comparison to early art (Kissick 237-239).
Romanticism. Romanticism is a movement in art that opposed classical views and emphasized those aspects that are found in the psyche such as the pleasurable, or the sublime. Spanning through the early nineteenth century, this period sought to individualize the artist and bring out the primacy of human beings. Most art during that time did one of two things: either the artist was included in the piece or the focus was on bodily pleasures to include marriage and the beauty that was offered by the bodies of women (Kissick 500).
The piece that I wish to discuss in reference with Romanticism is “Raft of the Medusa” by Gericault. This piece was created in 1818 from oil on canvas and is 16’1″ x 23’6″. The huge work is found in the Louvre and was created in Paris. You can definitely see the influence of the Baroque period in this work because the detailed, complex characters that are entailed. The colors represent a dark and gloomy area as if they are going into a storm. This painting is so morbid that I always thought it was called the Wrath of Medusa. There is a triangular symmetry used on several parts of this painting. All in all, this is a spectacular piece, however, I do not think that it is the best representation from that era because it does not bring out the artist or the pleasures of the body. If anything, this piece represents the dark thoughts that enter our psyche (Kissick 308-9).
Realism to Impressionism. Realism is the focus on how someone sees the world, not how the world really is. Based in the mid nineteenth century, realism is not quite the reality of the “naturalism” mentioned before but more on how someone will understand the world around them. Impressionism spans the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. This movement was specifically based off of a painting by Monet entitled “Impressions: Sunrise”. This movement made a focus on the contrasts of light and color and their place in the world instead of natural appearances (498-500).
Now, to establish an understanding of the two, I will compare and contrast two paintings…one by Monet and one by Millet. The first piece by Millet is entitled “The Gleaners”. This is oil on canvas painting that is 83.5 cm x 111 cm. The painting originated in Paris in 1857. Millet is known as the “Painter of Peasants”. This painting angered art critics of the time because it represented peasants being painted where a hero would normally be. The painting brings you into the scene to where you can almost feel the sun beating down on your face as you labor in the field (Net Source).
The painting by Claude Monet is entitled “Impressions: Sunrise” and was created in the year of 1872 in Paris. The oil on canvas painting is 19 x 24 inches and is from the Impressionism movement. This piece is intriguing to me because it focuses very little on actual characters and focuses more on the colors of nature around us. This painting has two small boats with people in it in the middle of the painting but the images are small and lacks any details. The main focus of this painting is on the sky and how it clashes with nature. The colors that are displayed by a sunset as well as the reflection of the sun on the water let me know that the focus is on how people understand the world around them (Kissick 334).
These two movements are basically opposite. Realism focuses more on people, and Millet focuses more on the peasants and their role in the world. Impressionism focuses more on nature, and how we perceive it. Simply put, these movements, as well as the pieces, are exact opposites.
Art has taken a long trail through time and has produced different eras which have their own masterpieces. This is just a dabble in the ocean of concepts that deal with art.