With a major new documentary about the renaissance on BBC4 and the V&A exhibition re-imagining Botticelli opening this month we thought it was time to look again at Renaissance art.
The Renaissance covers the period immediately following the Middle Ages in Europe which saw a great revival of interest in the classical learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome. Renaissance is taken from the French term for 'rebirth'.
Political stability, growing prosperity, and the development of new technologies was accompanied by a flowering of philosophy, literature and especially art. Artists in Italy started to use perspective which created the illusion of depth in a flat painting, while in the Netherlands artists developed oil painting, which allowed them to achieve highly realistic effects.
Renaissance art artists include Jan van Eyck, Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
The Renaissance produced some of our best known works of art including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Vitiation man by Michelangelo and the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. It has had an enduring influence on artists throughout the decades.
Botticelli’s art has a huge impact on the Pre-Raphaelite circle during the mid-19th century and Rossetti even owned an original Botticelli painting. However the name Pre-Raphaelite refers to the brotherhoods desire to embrace the classical art before Raphael that inspired the Renaissance artists.
In the 1980’s Andy Warhol produced a series of silkscreen from Renaissance Paintings in including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
Contemporary artist Magus Gjoen often uses images from Renaissance art (he studied in Milan and frequently returns to the country). He moulds these images onto objects like skulls guns and grenades. By placing these paintings in a new context he wants to change people’s relationship and preconceived notions of both the objects and the paintings. His work explores the themes of religion, war, beauty and destruction which is also often depicted in Renaissance art.
Other contemporary artists using renaissance images include Andrea Visconti’s Lisa Doesn’t Smile and Chris Kettle’s Dutch Masters inspired still lives.