This quarter we studied a variety of artists from the Early Renaissance in Northern Europe and Southern Europe through to the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century in Europe and North America. I tend to enjoy the artists that show an attention to detail in their painting style, such as the Northern European artists like Van Eyck and Durer. In sculpture I was drawn to the details of the figures and landscapes in Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise and the sense of action and drama in Bernini’s sculpture of David. I also enjoyed the landscapes during the 16th Century art in Northern Europe during the time of the Protestant Reformation. So much of the art focuses on male artists, so it was good to learn as well about the female artists who were just as involved in the different art periods and who established themselves as talented and respected artists.
Some of my favorite artists come from Northern Europe. Jan Van Eyck, an artist from the Early Northern Renaissance is well known for his technique with oil paints, and helps to establish the medium. The amount of detail and sense of life-like texture he is able to convey is also impressive. The Altar at Ghent shows so much detail, from the naturalistic figures of Adam (Van Eyck shows the veins just under the skin and hair on his legs) who looks as if he is about to step out of the frame, to the glowing jewels in the mud around the fountain. He is so into the details that he even puts the light source in the painting as if it is coming from the real window where the altar was installed. He starts to blurs the boundary between the painted figures and the viewer. Another artist who was interested into details was Albrecht Durer, a northern artist from the sixteenth century. He was able to show details and really portray a sense of texture within his works of art. His wood prints and engravings, such as his “Adam and Eve”, show minute details of texture between the smoothness of the skin in the naturalistic human figures, the roughness of the bark of the trees, and the soft fur of the different animals. I enjoy his use of the animals as allegories for the different humors of the body. His self portraits, especially his “Self Portrait” done in 1500 show amazing details in his rich clothing and help to give a sense of wealth and privilege. Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who is known as a landscape artists who is also from the same time period as Durer, portrayed a sense of a vast landscape opening in front of the viewer. His portrayal of everyday life and open landscapes, a theme that was popular after the Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe, gives a tranquil scene filled with details of life of everyday people. His use of atmospheric perspective and his high view points help to draw the viewer into scenes of harvest in the “The Harvesters” and into the cold landscape that is full of activity in the “Return of the Hunters”
Lorenzo Ghiberti, from the Early Italian Renaissance, combines naturalistic figures and architecture to create scenes that portray a sense of depth and perspective. His scenes from the bronze door, Gates of Paradise, from the east side of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence, show the successful use of one point perspective. He uses the relief of his sculpted figures and classical influenced buildings and one point perspective to give a life-like sense of depth. His buildings seem to naturally recede into the background and his figure get smaller, shallower, and move up on the picture plane to realistically show them further into the background. Bernini’s sculpture of David, from the Italian Baroque period, shows the Baroque style of drama and emotion that can be really interesting and helps to involve the viewer. His naturalistic figure seems to be caught in that pivotal moment of action that adds the sense of the theatrical and drama. I love that he seems to be caught in the moment and that he also seems to be looking and aiming just behind the viewer. His figure of David doesn’t seem static at all compared to many of the sculptures from earlier periods.
I also enjoyed learning about the many female artists from the different time periods. Before this class I wouldn’t have been able to name one female artist from these time periods. Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the Caravaggesque painters during the Baroque period followed the Caravaggio style of mostly monochromatic backgrounds, tenebristic lighting, bold colors, and sense of drama. Not only was she very talented but her subject matter seem to empower women. A few other female artists that I liked were the still life paintings of flowers by Rachel Ruysh and the pastel portraits done by Rosalba Carriera, who helped establish the Rococo style.