The Early Renaissance Art in Florence Essay

The early Renaissance art in Florence focused on an elaborate, Gothic style of painting; very formal and traditional, yet there was always something that seemed to be lacking. Perspective and depth were two very important qualities in painting, yet up until the time of young Masaccio, (born Tommaso Guidi), paintings were beautiful, but seemed to just be art that hung on the wall. In Masaccio’s work, “rather than recede in space, the figures seem to come forward” (Cole 120). He may not have known it at the time, but his style of painting would influence many painters well after his death; Donatello, Michelangelo, and so on. Masaccio may have only painted for a total of 8 years, but during those 8 years he revolutionized not only the time of the Renaissance, but also the way painting could be created by the artist, and seen by its viewers. Through the use of linear perspective and astronomical instruments, he was able to create amazing works that defied the limits of the human eye, and allowed a painting to possess realistic depth. Through his skills, Masaccio was able to move away from the Gothic and elaborate style of the time, and his paintings reflect the first use of perspective in order to create a sense of a realistic, three dimensional world.

In volume 1 of his “Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,” Giorgio Vasari says that Masaccio “first attained the clear perception that painting is no other than the close imitation of all the forms presented by nature” (Vasari 95). Before the time of Masaccio, many famous and brilliant painters lacked a basic sense of perspective and/or depth. Paintings such as Claude Monet’s Lavacour1, or Diovanni di Paolo’s St. John the Baptist going into the Wilderness2 were both beautiful and…

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… many talents and skills, along with his mastery of foreshortening, light, space and linear perspective, Masaccio was able to create the illusion of a real, three-dimensional world in his paintings; a world that viewers of his works could almost step into beyond the canvas. From the beginning to the end of his time as an artist, it can be seen that his skill level and confidence increased over time, until he finally created the almost perfect, realistic style of painting. Many painters study in the places where he has created art in order to study his styles and apply what they learn to their own art. What Masaccio began all those hundreds of years ago in Florence, Italy can still be seen in today’s art; that desire to take a story and make it appear so life-like on a canvas, so that others, even today, almost believe they could become a part of the art itself.

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