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 Northern Renaissance
. . . so sweet a thing it is not to be wise, that on the contrary men rather pray against anything than folly.
— Desiderius Erasmus, Praise of Folly, 1509
Renaissance humanism and art spread to the regions north of the Alps in the late 15th century in a movement known as the Northern Renaissance. Northern humanists focused more on religion than their counterparts of the Italian Renaissance. The naturalism of their art was more human-centered, and artists often showed ordinary individuals and scenes from everyday life. In addition, some artists in the north were less focused on the beauty of the human form and realistic settings and more on rendering exquisite details in smaller works, such as illuminated manuscripts and altarpieces painted on wooden boards. Like many Italian Renaissance artists, Northern Renaissance artists depended on wealthy patrons to buy their art and support their work.
Possibly influenced by Renaissance ideas, Christians started to become critical of the growing secular spirit of the Church. They wanted to restore what they considered purer Christian practices.
Visual Arts in the Northern Renaissance
Flanders, a region in what is now part of France and Belgium, became the leading center of art in the north in the 15th century. Northern artists observed nature closely in order to depict details accurately, but they did not display the skill of Italian artists in the use of perspective and proportion. After the spread of Protestantism in northern Europe, the number of religious works of art declined.
Albrecht Dürer To improve his skills, the German master Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) traveled to Italy to study in 1494. He even exchanged works of art with Raphael. In addition to paintings, Dürer created prints and woodcuts. In a woodcut, the artist carves an image into a block of wood and then uses ink and paper to reproduce the image on paper.
Jan van Eyck One of the first artists to excel at the new medium of oil painting was Jan van Eyck (c. 1390–1441). He signed many of his paintings with the notation “As best I can.”
 Essential Question: How were Renaissance ideas developed, maintained, and changed as the Renaissance spread to northern Europe?
Topic 1.3

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