Wedding & Events
Typically, the Renaissance is associated with Italy, in particular Florence and Venice, but most of Northern Europe followed this movement resulting in the development of naturalism. The trend represents human relationships socially, religiously and politically; drawing inspiration from reason and reflective experiences. This was a contrast to previous artworks which offered reference to the spiritual world and their authorities.
The status of artists from this period was changed, they were raised to a higher ideal with greater cultural importance. With creators competing for their place in the art world, their individual talents, innovations and ideas began to impact their audience. The 'greats' of this time are often
referred to as 'artistic genius' managing to balance the creative expression of art whilst offering differing views and standpoints on sociopolitical situations.
Right: Francesco Maria della Rovere, 1536 - 8, Titian
During the Renaissance, artists like Titian achieved new levels of natural looking detail. As shown in his work, armor began to shine with reflected light as this new generation of artists capture the effects of light and shadow on differing surfaces. Francesco Maria della Rovere is rich in natural detail; it is also a strong statement of earthly power and authority (secularism).
Other poignant art pieces include: Madonna and Child by Andrea Mantegna in 1446 which emphasises the common humanity between man and religious idols, The Holy Family created in 1504 by Michelangelo and The Baptism of Christ by Andrea
Verrochino and Leonardo da Vinci in 1475 depicting the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River alongside two kneeling angels in front of a palm tree.
How does this link to Classicism?
Many Renaissance artists associated the Middle Ages with a decline in culture causing them to distance themselves from it. Instead of following the previous path, they studied the arts of Ancient Greece and Rome whose achievements they looked to surpass. Due to this, there was a general air of fascination with the values of classical Greece and Rome.
The influence of the classical past was present in all areas of art; from architecture to painting.
Right: The School of Athens, 1510 - 11, Raphael
The School of Athens is a fresco by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, commissioned for the Vatican. The painting is notable for its accurate perspective projection, a skill that Raphael developed whilst working under Leonardo da Vinci. This piece in particular has long since been viewed as 'Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the Renaissance'³.
The painting shows the greatest mathematicians, philosophers and scientists from classical ancient past gathered together sharing and learning their ideas⁴. Aristotle and Plato are positioned in the very centre of the art piece, two impressive thinkers that impacted Western ways of thinking enormously, and whose philosophies were incorporated into Christianity. Both Aristotle and Plato are presented in such a way that supports their ideals. Plato points upwards because 'in his philosophy the changing world that we see around us is just a shadow of a higher, truer reality
Rococo originated as an attempt to reform the teaching of classical antiquity; it introduced a more playful feel that was sensitive to feelings and moods. This movement allowed art to abandon seriousness in favour of eroticism, decoration and pleasure⁸. The ornate nature of Rococo led to its widespread use in church interiors in central Europe and Portugal, opposing the traditionally secular interior with a more spiritually focused design⁹.
To begin with, Rococo was nonlinear with the dominant line of art being in an S-shaped curve or following the Fibonacci spiral; a stark contrast to the
straight, parallel lines of the art movements prior to this.
Right: The Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1717, Antoine Watteau
The Pilgrimage to Cythera is exhibited in the Louvre, Paris. The scene evokes a world of pleasure and wonder. The characters have just made their offering to a statue of Venus and are returning home. There is a hint of loss and longing within this piece, and an underlying sense of fragility; something that is unique to Rococo. The feathery brush strokes used by Watteau have produced a ghost-like effect as well as shiny, lifelike silks on the dresses of the women.
How does this oppose the Baroque?
Rococo reacted against the formulaic method of Baroque artists like Poussin, a leading figure in Baroque Classicism. Similar to Art Nouveau, this artistic movement sees partial abandonment of symmetry, with everything being composed of graceful lines and curves. Additionally, the colour palette from Rococo pieces was much warmer in tone, focusing more towards creams and pearl greys. Baroque art emerged around the year 1600, after the end of the
Renaissance. The term 'Baroque' offers insight to the difference in the two styles, meaning contorted idea or complex thought process¹⁰.
Right: Still Life with Sweets and Glassware, 1622, Juan Van Der Hamen
Still life, paintings of everyday objects like vases and fruit, became very popular during the Baroque period, particularly in the Dutch Republic¹¹. This type of art was simpler to produce as the subject was easily found. The ease in production was necessary due to the increase in the art market as more people could afford art for their homes. Baroque still life triggers contemplation, as well as admiration of the artists' skill and talent. Unlike Rococo, its beauty is often melancholy¹², inviting the viewer to consider the impermanence of life.
Neo-classical art arose in opposition to the overly decorative, gaudy styles of Rococo and the Baroque. The movement brought about a revival of the classic thoughts that mirrored the sociopolitical climate of the time, ultimately leading to the French Revolution. Neo-classicism developed alongside 'the Enlightenment', a political and philosophical motion that valued science, reason and exploration. Also referred to as 'The Age of Reason', the Enlightenment stemmed from skepticism of René Descartes, a notable philosopher, and the political philosophy of John Locke¹⁴. Their concepts were questioned and the ideals of individual liberty, religious tolerance and constitutional governments were advanced.
The French 'Encyclopédie' from 1751-72 had international influence with it representing a collection of Enlightenment thoughts, as well as being the most significant publication of the century.
In Britain the art movement took on a more contemporary message, emphasising moral virtue and rationality of the Enlightenment, through the likes of Benjamin West and others. Other artists created works informed by scientific invention, Joseph Wright of Derby's 'An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump' 1768 is a prime example of this.
Rather than the mythological subjects of artists across Europe, the Brits turned to classical historical accounts or contemporary history, like West's work (to right), where academic standards could be challenged.
Right: Death of General Wolfe, 1770, Benjamin West
This painting shows the death of Major-General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 during the Seven Years' War, alternatively known as the French and Indian War.
Wolfe was killed by musket fire in the brief battle as he led the British forces to victory. He is presented lying on the battlefield surrounded and comforted by a group of officers. His figure, creating the base of a pyramidal grouping rises to the partially rolled flag above, his pale face is illuminated in a Christ-like fashion forcing him to become the
visual and emotional center of the work. A group of officers stand in attendance to the left, they convey distress reminiscent to the depiction of the mourning of Christ. A solitary indigenous man sit with is chin in hand in the foreground to the left, as though in deep thought. Two more officers on the right frame the scene, while the onslaught continues in the background. A sense of drama is conveyed as the battle ends with a singular heroic sacrifice.
A number f the officers are identifiable, such as Captain Harvey Smythe holding Wolfe's arm and Dr Thomas Hinde tending the the general's bleeding. These recognisable portraits create a sense of accuracy and historical importance, yet almost all of them were not at the scene; their inclusion reflects West's intention to compose an iconic image of a British hero.
West reinterpreted the historical painting by depicting a contemporary scene and clothing his figures in contemporary attire. The artist was urged by others to depict classical Roman clothing to lend the event 'greater dignity'¹⁵, West chose against these suggestions stating, 'The same truth that guides the pen of a historian should govern the pencil of the artist.'¹⁶
The painting's cultural influence continued well into the modern era as historian Graeme Wynn noted in 'Illustrated History of Canada' that the painting 'became the most powerful icon of an intensely symbolic triumph for British Imperialism'¹⁷ and in 1921 the British donated the work to Canada in recognition for their efforts in the first world war.
How is this alike to Academicism?
The official style of academic art came to be closely related with neo-classical paintings with the similarity of artist conventions as well as the strong emphasis on the intellectual. Academic and Neo-classical artforms are socially-aware and emotional. The main difference between the two art movements is that academicism, alternatively known as eclecticism, features a subtle 'high-minded' message within the true-to-life realism presented.
Academic Art is referred to as 'the mode of painting and sculpture approved by official academies of fine arts, notable the French Academy and The Royal Academy.'¹⁸
(Above) Abduction of the Sabine Women, 1634-1635, Nicholas Poussin
Poussin acted as the foremost exponent of the conservatism that is the academic style of painting. His meticulous compositions, idealistic content and polished finish made him the epitome of the academic style in France.
(Above) Execution of Lady Jane Grey, 1833, Paul Delaroche
This painting acts as another example of academic ideal. Displayed in the National Gallery in London, the scene shows the final moments of the blindfolded Lady Jane Grey as she pleads, 'What shall I do? Where is the block?'¹⁹
The art produced in the beginning of the 19th Century was heavily dominated by Neo-classical influence, the art of a moral seriousness and political purposefulness which was soon to be challenged by Romanticism. The Romantics believed that the individual was the driving force of history and progression; they emphasised the emotional, the irrational and the symbolic over the rationality of being rule-bound. Ultimately, Romanticism began the process of freeing the artist from the authority of the Art Academies, social utility and convention. In its broadest use, 'romantic' refers to any art work
that is dominated by subjective states of mind, such as feelings, moods and intuitions.²⁰
Right: Tree with Crows, 1822, Casper David Friedrich
'Tree with Crows' is an oil painting from 1822 by German Romantic artist Casper David Friedrich. Acquired by the Louvre Museum, it has been called one of Friedrich's 'most compelling paintings'.²¹
On a glance, the painting is pessimistic in interpretation, founded upon strong contrasting colours and focusing on the dead nature of the tree. However, the scene is set against a sunrise/sunset reminding us of the cyclic nature of life and the inevitability of death; provoking a thought that death should not be feared.
Romanticism offers nature as a source of truths about human experience²², something that can be expressed through art and best understood emotionally.
Realism offered additional challenges to the ideals of the Academies and public opinion by broadening the subject matter of art to include stills from everyday life - often images of poverty of labour²³. This movement claimed that the artist should represent the world as it is, even if that meant breaking artistic and social conventions. The subject matter of Realism art was often considered immoral, breaking the accepted standards of 'good taste'. Realism
Above: The Artist's Studio, 1855, Gustave Courbet
was at its strongest in France with the most important painter-advocates being Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet.
Realists aspired to replicate what they saw, even what was considered dirty or unpleasant. 'The Artist's Studio' (left) can be interpreted as Courbet's critique of the failure to engage with the real world²⁴: the studio is unkempt and crowded contrasting the beautiful landscape being produced.
In this piece Courbet also showcases himself as a master of both realism and the art style he was rejecting.
Following Realism came Impressionism where the convention of representing natural appearance as a solid form was abandoned.
Impressionists replaced line and form with flashes of colour. Additionally, they tended to paint in open air, further rejecting the Academic tradition of working in a studio.
Cezanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin can be considered the forefathers of the 20th Century art movements.²⁵ The artists all shared a commitment to their individual idea of what art is. Collectively they grounded a massive shift in the way artists and their art was perceived. Increasingly artists came to think of themselves of having a vision to strive for and present, irrespective of social constructs and financial circumstance.
By the end of the 19th Century the most avant-garde artists identified their art and their authenticity as one of the same thing.
'The White Horse', 1898, Paul Gauguin
Gauguin used areas of pure and flat colour in his paintings enabling him to concentrate further on design rather than impressions of depth and volume.
'The Balcony', 1868-69, Edouard Manet
Manet broke Academic convention by painting loosely with broad strokes, noticeable in the face of the woman on the right. Manet's painting interpret the world around him, his candid eye recording things usually considered improper for art.
'Orpheus', 1865, Gustave Moreau
Alike to his previous work of 'Oedipus and the Sphinx', this painting represents the turning point for French visual arts and Moreau's style. Elements of the concept and composition in many ways predict the Symbolism aesthetic whilst offering a character from classical past.
The Birth of Photography
The history of photography began with the discovery of two core principles: camera obscura image projection, often used by artists, and the observation that varying substances are visibly altered by exposure to light.
In the mid-1820s, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce captured what is considered to be the earliest surviving record of photography²⁶ (below). Niépce's success led to a number of other experiments leading to the progression of this art form.
Daguerreotypes, emulsion plates and dry plates were developed almost simultaneously in the mid to late 1800s. With each type of emulsion, photographers experimented with different chemicals and techniques.
Daguerreotype: A copper plate coated in silver and exposed to iodine vapour before being exposed to light. This method had long exposure times yet remained popular until it was replaced by emulsion plates in the late 1850s.
Emulsion Plates: Also known as wet plates, were less expensive than daguerreotypes and had a much shorter exposure time of a few seconds compared to minutes. The plates would undergo the Collodian process to coat them with the emulsion. There were two common types, the ambrotype and the tintype. Ambrotypes used a glass plate instead of copper, whilst tintypes utilised tin plates. Both types of plate required a darkroom on hand to get developed.
In the 1870s photography took a further leap forward. Richard Maddox improved on a previous invention to make dry gelatine plates that were nearly equal to wet places in speed of production and quality. These plates could be stored as required allowing
Above: 'View from the Window at Le Gras', 1826-27, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
photographers more freedom. Additionally, the process allowed for smaller hand-held cameras, ultimately leading to the first camera with a mechanical shutter.
Eventually photography birthed branches into its own sub-genres including fine-art photography after the academy arts began to include photographic practice as part of common practice.