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Renaissance Ideas in the Visual Arts
The revived interest in classical civilizations affected the visual arts just as it had affected other aspects of Renaissance culture. Artists of the Middle Ages had emphasized religious messages rather than realistic portrayals of their subjects. Paintings lacked depth and often had odd proportions. Renaissance artists, however, studied examples of classical art, and along with the influence of humanist ideas, brought a fresh emphasis and style to the visual arts. Renaissance artists promoted not only religion, but also personal, political, and religious goals of the artists and their patrons.
In addition to using classical themes and styles and focusing on human beings, Renaissance painters and sculptors incorporated new techniques and trends in their work. In contrast to the heavy use of symbolism in medieval painting, Renaissance artists tried to be more realistic in two ways:
• As artists observed the natural world more closely, they began to aim for naturalism in their works. Artists wanted to imitate nature.
• Artists mastered the technique of geometric perspective, which used mathematics to help them create the appearance of space and distance in two-dimensional paintings.
Artistic developments in the city-states of Italy led the way in the development of Renaissance art and architecture.
Source: Getty Images
Medieval paintings, such as this one of Mary holding Jesus, often appear flat and somewhat out of proportion (left). This Renaissance painting of Mary, the mother of Jesus, shows the depth and complexity of art from that period (right).
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