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The Renaissance was a historical era that lasted from the middle of the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. This period was marked by cultural and intellectual enlightenment, with people abandoning Middle Ages-era ideas in favor of new ones that set the tone for the modern era we live in today. People were ready to revive the Roman and Greek cultures' former glory, so they heavily borrowed from their texts. After a prolonged period of mental laziness, this new insight challenged their thought and triggered cultural and intellectual successes in the arts, literature, and sciences. The Renaissance period led to an increase in knowledge that not only caused a change of mindsets but drastically improved the nature and quality of art.
The Renaissance began in Italy through the influence of classical texts. The fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasion had suppressed the thirst for knowledge. The manuscripts of classical teachings remained ignored until some scholars rediscovered them thus sparking a renewed hunger for knowledge (Stephens 137). These books were rich in information about various topics including the arts and caused an eruption of intelligence enabling man to put into practice ideas that were long forgotten. These ideas helped to bring change into their artwork.
The study of the classical texts gave birth to Humanism. This new way of thinking challenged the teachings the church had enforced throughout the Middle Ages. The church placed God as the central focus in the life of man and reminded every day through various means including art. Humanistic thinkers believed that human beings played a significant role in life. They adopted the thought that man had the potential to act on situations and change their outcomes as opposed to sitting back and waiting for God to do something (Trinkaus 677). For this reason, men began to shift their focus to the study of the human body and viewed it as an important work of art.
The newly acquired knowledge and freedom from the ideologies of the church brought some changes to the art scene. There was a widespread adaptation of secularism as opposed to focusing on religion (Guisepi). The Renaissance artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti used the human body as an inspiration for their art and produced notable works such as the Mona Lisa and the statue of David. These artists used the human body to show the deeper significance it had spiritually. The Renaissance art also borrowed heavily from classical mythology; such paintings were non-existent before due to the association with paganism (Cline).
The Renaissance improved artistic techniques. The scientific knowledge about linear perspective, symmetry, 3-dimensional objects, proportion, and the use of light, helped to improve the overall outcome of art. The application of this knowledge gave rise to more realistic illusionistic paintings that were lacking in the medieval ages. The artists painted body forms in proportion to real life, and distant objects were made to look smaller thus adding more perspective and depth to the painting (Italian Renaissance). This historical period also gave rise to oil paintings which artists preferred due to the ease in achieving realism through the use of light and other techniques. The paintings took longer to dry and were easy to manipulate to realize texture and depth as opposed to the fresco.
The cause-and-effect relationship
The changes that occurred during the Renaissance are of great significance. The rediscovery of the classical texts opened the people's minds to possibilities they didn't know existed. They shifted their minds from religion and started thinking of ways to improve their experiences as human beings. From their studies, we now have knowledge about proper realistic forms of art. Their discoveries led to the growth of art whose basics principles are still in use today.
The Renaissance period had a profound effect on art. As the people broke away from their mental cocoon to pursue knowledge, they came across new ideas that considerably improved their perspective and the quality of their work. The impact of these discoveries continues to be felt even in the modern world today as most artists borrow from this wealth of knowledge.
“Italian Renaissance Art.” Visual Arts Encyclopedia, n.d., www.visual-arts-cork.com/renaissance-art.htm#effects. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
Cline, Austin. Renaissance Humanism: History of Humanism with Ancient Renaissance Philosopher. ThoughtCo, 17 Feb. 2017, www.thoughtco.com/renaissance-humanism-248119. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
Guisepi, R. A. Beginning and Progress of the Renaissance. History World, www.history-world.org/renaissance.htm. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
Stephens, John. The Italian Renaissance: The Origins of Intellectual and Artistic Change Before the Reformation. Routledge, 2014.
Trinkaus, Charles. "Humanism, Religion, Society: Concepts and Motivations of Some Recent Studies." Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 1976, pp. 676-713.
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