Renaissance Art Techniques

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The Renaissance was literally an explosion of learning and culture that began in and around Florence, Italy, in the 14th century. Scholars began rediscovering the writings of ancient Greece and Rome. Scientists began their first in-depth observations of the skies above and the physical world around them. And artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael Sanzio and Botticelli created visual masterpieces that inspire awe to this day. In the process, these masters developed techniques previously unseen.

Perspective

  • In Perspective painting, the artist's primary concern is the symbolism of the art. Each item in the painting is sized for its importance, rather than its placement. Brunelleschi, Da Vinci and Piero della Francesca were famous artists who used the Perspective style. To achieve a Perspective painting, the artist must decide on a central point and paint all other objects in a manner that makes them appear to be moving toward the central object. This is accomplished by angling successive objects toward the central object.

Foreshortening

  • Foreshortening adds another dimension to paintings. The central object is generally large so that it can be angled toward the viewer, giving it a third-dimensional appearance. "Dead Christ," a well-known painting by Andrea Mantegna, depicts Jesus lying on a bed after he has been removed from the cross. The bottom of the painting reveals his feet, which have holes in them from the nails. The bed and his body is angled so that his head is at the top of the painting, giving the illusion that the image is three-dimensional.

Sfumato

  • Leonardo da Vinci developed the Sfumato technique of oil painting, which features fine shading to develop soft transitions between each tone of color. Each layer of the painting is coated with fine paint that blurs shadows and softens edges. The technique is often used to set the tone of the atmosphere, creating mist and haze, and allowing unusual facial features. Sfumato is the Italian word for "smoky."

Chiaroscuro

  • Also developed by Da Vinci, the Chiaroscuro style depicts oil paintings in a tonal unity. He uses the vibrancy of each color consistently throughout. This allows each artist who practices Chiaroscuro to create works of art that are natural to the scene. The technique goes on to allow for the utilization of light and dark paint, which conveys to the viewer a three-dimensional scene. Da Vinci paints his people in light clothing, which allows him to contrast them with their surroundings.

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