Let’s talk a bit about art history. Why? You ask. These are our roots, this is where we come from, historically, as artists; and there is so much to learn about art through our linage. Today we are going to cover just one of the movements through history and we’ll begin at our roots, the roots of Realism back to the Renaissance.
Now, just because we are beginning with the Renaissance doesn’t mean this is where art began. It seems the desire for man to represent his surroundings went way back, all the way back to the cave dwellers; where chiseling images on cave walls was vogue for the day.
Nor does this dismiss the Medieval Art, where a more iconic style was the observation and rendering of many artists
Paleolithic cave paintings dating back more than 25,000 years in France
Instead, we are jetting ahead to the times of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. These two artists are a great representation of this time in art and the the amazing visual observations and abilities that were displayed through the Renaissance.
The Renaissance is considered to be the “rebirth” of classical knowledge of art, which is really interesting because a “rebirth” means there was believed to have been a time of great understanding when it came to art, architecture and literature. We know a bit about some of this through the historical information about the Roman Empire and early Greece. They have left us amazing architectural feats to marvel and statues that show the eloquence of their mastery and though there are some paintings left to us from this era; little that bares witness of what painters of the day where able to lay down on canvas or board.
After The Fall of The Roman Empire the world sank into the “Dark Ages” where the bulk of knowledge was mishandled, and that’s being kind. Much of the knowledge that would survive was due to the tireless efforts of monks in monasteries working diligently and painstakingly to copy texts which contained much of man’s accumulated knowledge of that time.
Then fast forward to the Renaissance which defines the space in time from the 1400 - 1600s. It is said that Leonardo spent much of his youth wandering through the Italian countryside with sketchbook in hand noting all of the wonders that nature offered for his observation. He is credited with cataloging many plants and animals that escaped the notice of others and adding to his drawing skills even greater abilities through his efforts.
Michelangelo also began art as a mere child. Michelangelo was just six years old when he began to learn the skill of sculpting. He began to earn a living as an artist by the time he was fourteen. It is reported that Michelangelo had little interest in his traditional studies as a youth; he was one of “those” children that spent their time drawing when he should have been studying. It seems to have paid off well for him though, don’t you think?
The things that really made the Renaissance a noteworthy time in art history is the way artists began to see their world and represent perspective in their work along with a greater study of light and shadow and they worked to render a more natural form of the human figure. Artists also aspired to create works that inspired emotions in their viewers and many of these were allegoric or religious in nature.
Why all this chatter about yesteryear? Ancestry is big and we as artists have a lineage and it’s important to know where we come from. It’s really important to follow in the footsteps of those greats that have come before us. If we spend just a little time every day, or even once a week, okay every once in a while, learning to “read” what our art ancestors have left for us, our own work will begin to take on greater depth, plus a wealth of genetic inspiration that only comes through knowing where we come from.