History

Question

How did the fact that Italian artists painted often painted frescoes on large church walls lead to the development of the technique of perspective

2 Answer

  • The Italian Renaissance was one of the most productive periods in the history of art, with large numbers of outstanding masters to be found in many centers and in all the major fields painting, sculpture, and architecture. In Florence, in the first half of the fifteenth century, there were great innovators in all these fields, whose work marked a beginning of a new era in the history of art. These innovators included Masaccio in painting, Brunelleschi in architecture, and Donatello in sculpture. Their new ideals and methods were systematized in the theoretical writings of their friend and fellow artist Leon Battista Alberti. There can also be observed in this period a change in the social status of the artist. Heretofore, he had been an artisan, a craftsman. Now the attempt was made to include artists among the practitioners of the "liberal arts," which were regarded as being on a higher level than the "mechanical arts." These efforts bore fruit, and some of the great masters, for example, Titian and Michelangelo, by the force of their genius and personality, were able to achieve a measure of status and respect rarely enjoyed by their predecessors. The idea of artistic genius became popular; Michelangelo was called "divine" because of the greatness of his creative powers.

    In the Renaissance, art and science were closely connected. Both the artist and the scientist strove for the mastery of the physical world, and the art of painting profited by two fields of study that may be called scientific: anatomy, which made possible a more accurate representation of the human body, and mathematical perspective. Perspective in painting is the rendering on a two- dimensional surface of the illusion of three dimensions. Previous painters had achieved this effect by empirical means, but the discovery of a mathematical method of attaining a three-dimensional impression is attributed to Brunelleschi in about 1420. Henceforth, the method could be systematically studied and explained, and it became one of the chief instruments of artists, especially painters, in their pursuit of reality. Some men were both artists and scientists, notably Leonardo da Vinci and Piero della Francesca. It is doubtful whether they would have understood our distinction between art and science.

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