What is Renaissance art?

Renaissance art is one of the most fascinating type of artwork you can find in any gallery. It is the oldest art style that gave birth to many forms of art that beyond paintings, but also sculpture, architecture, music, and even literature. The origin of Renaissance artwork can be as early as AD 1400. In paintings, a Renaissance painting usually has elements of classical art, components like natural presentation of human body, realistic landscape, or very detailed portrait, either in oil or fine print.

Renaissance art is in a way, a result of the combination of several cultural elements. Many of these paintings have significant presence of Greek and Roman culture, as well as religious subjects like Bible characters. Most Jesus paintings are presumably, a Renaissance artwork. Also, these types of artworks tend to feature human interactions or activities in a realistic surrounding. In a dinner, talking with each other, or even divine representation like Goddess. In a way they can be similar to some Impressionist paintings, but what differentiate both style is the high level of detail and realism which is a key characteristic of Renaissance paintings. This reflects in close-up human portrait and surrounding of real-life places and objects. Some of the most famous Renaissance artists are Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello, and Michelangelo.


Characteristic of Renaissance art

Now we will explore some of the key characteristics of Renaissance art movement to help us understand why Renaissance art is the way it is today. It is important to explore these key ideas behind every painting to discover what makes Renaissance painting an extremely valuable piece of work and what separates it from other styles of painting.


  1. Reflection on Human Ideals

Before Renaissance became a famous accepted form of art, it was the classical Byzantine and Medieval paintings that were the origin of human incursion in artwork. At the early stage, these human figures were plain individuals without much representation on natural human emotion. The is where Renaissance art built on from. By depicting human character with more genuine demeanors and physical elements of realistic human appearance, the artwork places greater emphasis a form of human ideals.

Simply put, Renaissance reflects a more complete picture of human in every way. Emotional clues, natural appearance and real-life object that is part of our lives in the real world. We can easily see the difference in Jesus Medieval painting and Renaissance’s. That a major different is the dullness and the evidence of emotions.


  1. Naturalism and Human Body

Similar to the previous point that again, proves the essentiality of human in Renaissance art movement. The ideals of naturalism play a key role in shaping Renaissance artwork. How different human parts connect together in a body, the various shapes and size of human organs, and even the slightest movement are the focus in many renowned Renaissance artwork. This is primarily because Renaissance artists believed that the human body is a wonderful thing.
Both Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo went as far as to study and watch dead bodies being dismembered to understand how the human muscles lay underneath the skin to make Da Vinci's 1487 drawing Vitruvian Man.


  1. A Mixture of Greek and Roman Culture

A significant parts of Renaissance art have shared history in both Greek and Roman culture. Since it is one of the oldest forms of art, how Renaissance came into existence, influenced, and developed has substantial impact from these two influential stages of human civilization. You can see the presence of Greek and Roman culture in the scenery behind objects, the settings, or the appearance of human subjects in the painting. In classical Greek and Roman times, the significant public areas were loaded up with statues and sculptures. During the Renaissance, there was an expanded enthusiasm for prehistoric studies to rediscover classical Greek and Roman culture.


  1. Christianity

Many of the most famous Renaissance artwork depicted religious images, story, or subjects one way or another. Bible characters like Virgin Mary, Madonna, or Jesus himself had been a subject in one of these Renaissance paintings. The reason for this is the Catholic involvement in Renaissance in the 15th century. Renaissance artists and artworks had been increasingly commissioned with Catholic entity such as churches, officials, and popes being the primary patron. These artworks were seen as religious Mass for devotion. Undoubtedly with the help of its own audience.

Like other art movements, there are certain level of technical differences that make each style a unique artwork of its own.  These are some of the other characteristics of Renaissance art that should help you understand the ideas behind the movement and connect with the paintings emotionally.

  • An interest in the history of contemporary art and forging a continuous path of development.
  • A blending of pagan and religious iconography but with humanity as its focus.
  • A tendency towards monumentality and dramatic postures.
  • An interest in creating an emotional response from the viewer.
  • The development of precise mathematical perspective.
  • An interest in hyper-realistic and detailed portraits, scenes, and landscapes.
  • An interest in the use of bright colors, shade, and capturing the effects of light.
  • The development in use of oil paints and fine prints.
  • The use of subtle shapes and everyday objects to give extra meaning.
  • An increase in the prestige of artists as superior craftworkers who combined intellectual studies with practical skills.


History of Renaissance art

The origin of Renaissance art went back to around late 13th century in Italy. A period that was called Pronto-Renaissance. An artist named Giotto, among other Italian scholars and artists were keen to make their paintings more realistic and so they used foreshortening to give a sense of depth to a scene. Giotto also cultivating his painting technique with the goal to bring a more realistic presentation of human body into artworks. This is not only in artistic sense but also in physical representation in the painting to essentially make characters lively. Giotto is often referred to as the 'first Renaissance painter

Wealthy patrons were the driving force behind Renaissance art in a period when the vast majority of artistic works were made on commission. Churches were the usual beneficiaries of this system in the first part of the Renaissance. Painted panels for altarpieces and frescos were the most common form of artistic decoration. The Catholic Churn was the major patron in this early stage and due to the influence of the Church, Renaissance artworks were increasingly commissioned by popes, civil bureaucracies, courts, and wealthy families across Florence Italy.

Rome replaced Florence as the center of Renaissance arts around the end of 15th century. This became known as the “High Renaissance art” period. This name was given for the success of three Renaissance great masters at that time: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Da Vinci was dominated as the “Renaissance man” for the depth of his artistic intellect, interests, and effort to expand his work in a more expressive humanism with classical value. Some of his most influential works include the Mona Lisa (1503-05) and The Last Supper (1495-98). Physical relationship between humans, animals and real-life objects were developed into key parts of this High Renaissance period. Renaissance spread further in western and northern Europe gaining popularity in France and Spain throughout 15th and 16th century until its eventual decline.


How Renaissance changed the art world


  1. The importance of a willingness to explore

Renaissance was a period of greater learning and curiosity which led many learners and artists to develop and engage in new forms of art. A renewed passion for learning and for human achievement led to the influence of all of these new studies in the formation of greater art. Renaissance was made possible by the willingness to learn and explore out of their own boundaries. While the Western world saw simultaneous discoveries and innovations, the artists in Italy became more and more curious to explore the world and all the possible aspects of nature. This led them to discover the magic of architecture, sculpting and painting, essentially became the revival of classical antiquity.


  1. The nobility of Humanism

Humanism is a very important concept in Renaissance art as demonstrated clearly in many works of art. Renaissance as a form of art evolved from the concept of Renaissance Humanism (not the same thing) which advocated the study of classical texts and thinking. It became the dominant form of education that shared the belief in human and the relationship with God in discovering one’s potential and dignity. The idea cultivated into part of Renaissance arts and consequently, the church began to finance and sponsor creative ventures and education. And with the high rate of patronage from the wealthy royals, there was always a ready market for the paintings that were made.


  1. The discovery of linear perspective

Renaissance was not only associated heavily with Catholic church in Rome. The movement also took place at the time where Middle Age Europe had been bombarded with new discoveries in every area. In arts, the revival in math and proportions led to the innovations of two major systems: the use of linear perspective and the introduction of the vanishing point – This is considered to be one of the revolutionary characteristics of renaissance art. This was created by the famous architect of that time, Filippo Brunelleschi. He used the innovations in math to create a linear perspective using parallel lines, a horizon line, and a vanishing point to realistically portray space and depth in art.


  1. The rebirth of Naturalism

Setting up Naturalism as the standard in art at that time was one of the main accomplishments of Leonardo Da Vinci. Drawing and painting with anatomical precision is another characteristic of the Renaissance Art that brought about change in world patterns. This was made possible during his quest to study human body intellectually. In order to craft human painting as natural as could possibly be done Da Vinci incorporated what he learned of bone structures, musculature, and organ placement to create light and shadow in a way that can highlight the painting most effectively.

It was not a surprise that he had been called a scientist as much as an artist during his time. In Medieval days, the human body was regarded as being sinful, smelly, and disgusting. Therefore, it was to be covered at all times. But then, during the Renaissance period, this changed. Renaissance thinkers considered the human body to be a beautiful thing. And in fact, a model for God’s universe.