Renaissance and Baroque Essay

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Renaissance and Baroque Periods

The term Renaissance describes, not only a movement in art, but also a corresponding social and cultural movement that moved through Europe at the conclusion of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance period lasted from the 1400s to the 1600s, and spread through most of Europe, though it is probably the most heavily associated with Italy. The term "renaissance" means revival or rebirth, and the Renaissance did mark a period of significant cultural revival. In order to truly understand the Renaissance, it is important to understand that the Middle Ages, the time period preceding the Renaissance was a period of retraction largely due to political instability. However, as Europe emerged from the Middle Ages and became more stable, the surrounding social landscape became supportive of an explosion in the arts and learning. The movement began in Italy in the 1400s and spread into France, northern Europe, and Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries. It ended sometime in the 1600s, depending on the location in Europe.

While the Renaissance was known for an emphasis on learning in a broad variety of areas, it was also specifically known because of several advances in art. Beginning with the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, Renaissance artists ushered in the technique of paining in oil directly on canvas. Giorgione and Titian were two influential artists who helped develop this oil-on-canvas technique; "this technique of oil painting allowed the artist to rework an image- as fresco painting (on plaster) did not- and it would dominate to the present day" (A & E, 2013).

Just prior to the Renaissance is a period many refer to as the proto-Renaissance, which was mainly confined to Italy. It was during this period that some of the artistic advances most associated with Renaissance art work were developed. For example, earlier painters struggled with perspective and had a difficult time capturing the three dimensional human form on a two dimensional surface. However, the proto-Renaissance painter Giotto made advances in the realistic representation of the human body that were carried forward into the Renaissance period (A&E, 2013). This realistic representation of the human body is one of the hallmarks of Renaissance artwork.

Another change during the Renaissance period reflected changes in culture. Prior to the Renaissance, the Catholic Church was the most significant patron of the arts. As a result, many older works of art have religious themes or subject matter. In fact, even many older portraits worked modern images into religious themes. This began to change during the Renaissance. The Catholic Church remained a significant patron of the arts, but non-church entities, from individuals to government bodies, became increasingly more involved in patronizing the arts. This had two results. The first result was that many artists were freed to move beyond the constraints of religious subject matter. The second result was that art was found outside of the realm of the church; it became, if not an everyday occurrence, something that people were much more likely to encounter than when it was confined to the Church.

The Renaissance is remarkable for a number of different characteristics. As the term "Renaissance man" implies, one of the notable aspects of the Renaissance was that many of its better-known figures were known for being involved in multiple disciplines. Leonardo da Vinci was probably the best known of these famous Renaissance artists. Da Vinci's…

Sources Used in Document:


A&E Television Networks. (2013). Renaissance Art. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from The

History Channel website: da Vinci, L. (1492-1498). The Last Supper. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from Encyclopaedia

Britannica website:

Khan Academy. (2013). 1600-1700: The Baroque. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from The Khan

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