When comparing art throughout the ages, the Renaissance period perfectly demonstrated the ideal of harmony and balance. Compared to others like Pop Art, Impressionism, Classicism, and Baroque, the Renaissance period representing a time of structure and precision. Renaissance art includes unique qualities such as strong elements of form, color, proportion, light, shade, spatial harmony, composition, and perspective. This is done by placing emphasizes on composition and imagination towards an object or character symmetrically proportioned. Also common from this period are themes on religion and humanism. Together, the use and quality of Renaissance art made significant influence on Impressionism and the artistic era that followed. This can be observed by comparing the works from these historical periods.
School of Athens
A classic masterpiece from the Renaissance period is the painting, “School of Athens”. Painted by Raphael in 1509 on the walls of the Vatican, the piece showcases the age of philosophy and the school of thought. In this painting more than 60 famous philosophers and scientists unite in a huge architectural framework. At center are Plato and Aristotle, surrounded by other major philosophers. They move, act, teach, discuss and become excited. The painting celebrates classical thought, but it is also dedicated to the liberal arts. “All of the characters painted in this painting represent the new perception, the development of mankind”, (Bordens, 2010).
Perspective and attention to light are the core ideas to artists during this time. This includes architectural accuracy in backgrounds, applying science and geometrics into the work. This scientific element of balance is seen in, The School of Athens. “Plato and Aristotle are centrally walking in a peripatetic manner through the Lyceum”, (Alexandros, 2005). Linear perspective is used, a method to show 3-Dimensional objects on a flat surface, making “objects appear to be moving away from the viewer and meet at a single point on the horizon, the vanishing point”, (Alexandros, 2005). In this painting Plato and Aristotle are stressed, signifying their importance. Represented from left and right is a sculpture on each side, enhancing the symmetry. There is also, although not perfect or proportional, some temporal ordering of the persons from the center. This creates both balance and harmony of the piece. It brings together both science and art to showcase the cultural movement in learning.
From Renaissance to Impressionism
After the Renaissance period, other movements like Baroque, Classicism, Romanism, Impressionism, Post & Neoimpressionism, etc. emerged respectively. Each of these movements has its own special characteristics as well as contribution to the world of art. One of the movements seen after the Renaissance is Impressionism. Impressionism was directly influenced by the Renaissance period and made a significant imprint on the revolution of art. The Impressionist era broke away from Renaissance characteristics, providing elements of art that are uniquely its own.
Luncheon of the Boating Party
The Luncheon of the Boating Party is an exceptional piece of work painted by Auguste Renoir in 1881. The artist uses various costumes of character, color, and setting to convey the pleasures of a sunny afternoon among friends. “Renoir’s palette has a golden glow”, (Flattmann, 2007). This is observed in the skin of the ladies as, “it shines under the warmth of the sun at the terrace”, (Flattmann, 2007). The straw hats and bared arms of character indicated the warmth of the sun and the spirit of the occasion.
In Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, the artist’s process appears to be authentic and fresh. The painting shows consistency seen of Impressionist art as the piece captures the use of light and color. “By composing a group of figures into a singular, the harmonious moment in time requires careful visual examination of the painting’s composition”, (Kloss, 2005). This demonstrates Renoir’s skill and his contribution to art history. Detailed observation of the paint surface reveals the high level of skill in the techniques of oil painting that Renoir developed. “The character of his brushwork varies from brightly colored, thickly applied paint in the still life on the table, to the feathered brushstrokes of the landscape in the background”, (Flattman, 2007). In the figures, Renoir has used distinct outlines and subtle changes of light that helps to clearly define the full dimensions of the human body and facial features.
Value of Impressionism
Impressionists liked to paint real life subjects and scenes, including everyday life, people at work, women, and children playing. Landscape, nature, and time are considered to be important elements of everyday outdoor activities, which is natural and full of light. Objects look different at different times of day and impressionist took advantage of this. They captured the very moment of a certain time, showing the effect of light and color in an open composition. However, “the Renaissance put an important value on the historical content, emotions, and perception, impressionism focus on color and composition”, (Kloss, 2005).
Differences and Comparisons
Several differences can be seen when comparing the paintings from Renaissance and Impressionism. The motivation for painting has changed. While impressionist art showcase light and time, Renaissance paintings showcase light and science. The impressionist painted themes such as people and society, however, Renaissance art include themes such as religion and philosophy. Without religious-oriented themes, Impressionist art took a new and different direction. Impressionism used art to express society and life daily moments versus the pursuit of learning and science. Themes expressed during the Renaissance period widen and encourage the knowledge of man.
Other qualities stand when comparing Renaissance and Impressionist art. This is because Impressionism did not follow the laws of geometry, like symmetry. This is seen by the paint strokes on the canvas found in Impressionism, such as the “careful concern turned rough using depiction and style… quick dip of the brushstroke to catch the immediate moment”, (Flattmann, 2007). Doing this emphasizes contrast and depth. By rejecting central and measured objects, it creates a new way of expression. It created, “a harmonious close space, a progressive breakthrough of the rigidness of the previous eras”, (Kloss, 2005). In addition to the different range of colors used during this time, it demonstrates a colorful approach to texture.
During the Renaissance each and every painting has its own meaning through historical context and biblical themes. So to understand the message behind a Renaissance painting, it requires the audience to have an understanding of European history, Christianity, and the social factors of the time. In impressionism however, it’s easier to understand the open context of the painting. Themes include social scenes that can be warm and inviting or express life’s simple moments. With these differences both movements express the evolution of western art, such as the social and historical impact of art and artistic expression.
The birth of Renaissance symbolizes the recovery of interest in classical Greco and Roman antiquity and values. The birth of Impressionism gave a new concept of art. Impressionist created their own method of self-expression, showing a spiritual context, ideas about the surrounding world, and the introduction of industrial mechanics. Each era has special characteristics that attract others, whether or not they accepted the style. The Renaissance has a long history of development. It represents high art, sophistication, growth and interest in knowledge. However, Impressionism is still young, developed in the late 19th century-early 20th century, (Bordens, 2010). It was the differences between the two historical periods include society, culture, and religious perception, that make these two styles unique from the other.
By analyzing the two periods of art, a better understanding can be reached concerning their impact to society, culture, and perspective of the people living in those times. If the Renaissance movement changed the artistic society by their ability to unite art and science, Impressionism movement has changed how they use art and science to change artistic society. There is no other art movement that has changed world as much as the Renaissance. Italy was at the center of the Renaissance period, as they recovered and reclaimed Greek and Roman tradition influenced by art and science. This includes the spheres of architecture, literature, science, philosophy, and mythology. The Renaissance era encouraged knowledge and changed the world of art. With this, the Impressionists rebuilt an inner spirit by taking these ideals and using it to show the art and science observed in people, nature, and time.
Aexandros, K. (2005, May 01). The school of athens. Retrieved from http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Article/555679
Bordens, K. (2010). Contextual information, artistic style and the perception of art. Empirical Studies of the Arts , 28(1), 111-130.
Flattmann, A. (2007). The art of pastel painting. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company.
Kloss, W. (2005). Fine arts and music: A history of European art. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. Retrieved from http://www.teachersyndicate.com/documents/oct_2010/TTC Guidebooks/A History of European Art, Part IV.pdf