The Renaissance is known as a time of change and advancement in Western European art. The period is famous for many works of art from Italian artists that are still held in high regard today. Many of these artists looked to the past and became influenced by ancient Roman art and architecture. They incorporated Roman ideas of proportions and perspective to their art. Architects looked to make buildings and structures bigger and grander then their predecessors, as can be seen by Brunelleschi and the dome of the Florence Cathedral. There was also the incorporation of philosophical ideas of humanity, science, and mathematics that would have an influence on the art of the Renaissance period.
We see the Renaissance period as a flourish of movements in art, science, philosophy, religion, and technological advancement. There becomes interest in the studying the world around us and a return of humanism (a celebration of the human body) and an interest in anatomy. We also see the art from the 15th and 16th century to be a return to the realistic and idealized form of classical Greek art. Our culture seems to admire those with the skill to achieve realism in art (even if it is an idealized realism), such as the ancient Greek artists, but I think people feel a stronger connection with the renaissance artists because they are not so far in the past, and so much of their art is still present to this day.
We tend to focus on big name artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael because they produced works art that were unique for their time and in ours. They are also used so often in examples in art books, posters, magazines, and ads. There are so many common references to their art work and much of it has become franchised and become part of our culture. I had a friend once who had a magnet on her refrigerator of the Donatello’s “David” and of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”. The David came with a set of clothes that you could put on him, including jeans and a Hawaiian shirt.