By definition, the Renaissance was about the rebirth of classical ideas and movements, all of which were heavily impacted by Greco-Roman styles and techniques. Before the Renaissance, visual art was flat, earth toned, and disproportionate. So, why did the art go from dull and dark to three dimensional and bursting with color? To put it simply, the Renaissance marked change and the start of the modern era. The art that emerged emphasized nature, portraits, religion, and had humanistic themes, reflecting the values of the people and artists of the time.
At the start of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration was on the rise. This was the starting inspiration of drawing nature and landscapes. An example would be Landscape with Charon Crossing the River Styx by Joaquim Patinier in 1515. The painting is divided into three sections; the left shows the mortal world, the center contains a river with Charon in a boat transporting a soul, and the right is the gate to the afterworld. This demonstrates that religion was an important piece in creating his art, along with details of characters and nature aspects. Patinier used blue hues to demonstrate distance and give dimension, and also used intense colors to evoke emotion. The bright, lush green mortal world emits life and happiness, while the gates of the afterworld lead into darkness where the colors evoke sadness and despair.
While colors show emotion in landscapes, the main conveyor of emotion and feeling within portraits are facial expressions, symbols, or colors. Depending on the person, the colors they are wearing or how they are positioned can show their social or political status. Along with that, the portraits [celebrate] the unique qualities and personality of [an] individual person. A famous example would be Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The portrait is an oil painting depicting a young woman in front of a mountainous background. While there is much speculation as to who the lady is, the artwork is well known because it evokes a sense of mysterious serenity. Before this time, portraits lacked soul and emotional depth, and artists tried to incorporate them in gestures or objects. Da Vinci was revolutionary in the sense that he brought a new aspect to his paintings without making them overly religious or uselessly busy.
Though individualism, along with secularism, was on the rise, many artists referenced their religious beliefs within their works of art. Catholicism was the main religion in Europe, though not every religious piece displays strictly Catholic ideals. For instance, upon the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo painted multiple scenes depicting art from both Christianity and Catholicism. One of the most famous scenes is his Creation of Adam. The fresco shows Adam on Earth reaching towards God who is surrounded by angels and cherubs. Michelangelor’s emphasis on the creating an accurate human body reflects his values on the individual person. Finally, as individualism became increasingly popular, humanism arose as one of the most used and valued aspects of renaissance art.
Viewing any of the art made between the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, common people, warriors, gods, or religious characters show up in nearly every single piece. From Da Vinci, to Raphael, to Bernini, the common theme between these artists is their emphasis on people. Through sculpture, frescos, or sketches, humankind has made the spotlight. The reason behind this is a new belief arose that a person can make great achievements without society to hold them back. Due to this, artists started to sign their work, and slowly began to break away from strictly religious art, while at the same time bringing self glory. The impact the Renaissance has on modern art is substantial. Artistic ideals such as capturing light, perspective, and shadows became the main tool in order to discern the world as it truly is. Artists began to create individual and new styles, and they broke the boundaries of what was previously thought of as art. These ideals have transferred to the modern world as new types of art is continuously being produced, along with more people expressing themselves in new creative ways.