Lesson 16: Renaissance Art

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


The vibrant art that flourished at the end of the 14th century did not satisfy artists. They wanted more; they wanted people to learn to see and understand what they were seeing. This was also how the Romans had crafted their art, so it’s no surprise that interest in these ‘ancient’ arts revived in the form of Renaissance art, literally the rebirth of art. 
Urban elites, including the wealthy Italian merchant and banking families Strozzi, Pazzi, and De Medici in Rome and Florence, had ample funds and wanted to be able to use them. They increasingly valued the importance of the individual. The Renaissance had acquired a new intellectual foundation: humanism. Humanists believed that after the dark ages, a new flourishing period had arrived with humanity at its radiant center. It was no longer just about lineage and chivalry, but also about the intellectual abilities of individual humans. A renowned humanist, theologian, philosopher, and writer from that time was the Rotterdamer, Desiderius Erasmus (1466/1469-1536). A consequence of this was a distinction between craftsmen and artists, resulting in the most talented no longer working in guilds, but continuing their careers as independent artists. Many traveled from city to city seeking the best-paid assignments.
The most densely populated urban areas at that time were in Tuscany, particularly in and around Florence, and in Flanders. It was in these regions that art could further evolve. Italy’s artistic influence was significant, mainly because artists from all over Europe visited Italian cities and returned to their native countries with sketches and prints. Italian artists expressed their fascination with the human body through images of muscular nudes. And a completely new form of art emerged: printmaking. Thanks to these woodblock prints and the more detailed copper engravings, all these new artistic expressions spread across Europe, as thousands of copies of a print could be produced. An exchange of knowledge and ideas occurred that had never been experienced before.
Cities also developed throughout the rest of Europe, where people settled, advanced, and started businesses.

Middeleeuws dorpje in de Moezel Sankt Aldegund. De getoonde woningen stammen uit de 6de en de 17de eeuw.1
Image: The wine village of Sankt Aldegund on the Moselle in Germany. The 16th-century half-timbered houses in this image were home to wine farmers. They also cultivated other crops for sustenance.
The wine village of Sankt Aldegund is located on the banks of the Moselle river in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

The Flemish and French Tapestries

Reading the texts on this website, one might think that paintings were the most valuable art forms during this period. However, this was not the case in the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The most money in the Renaissance was spent on Flemish and French tapestries, wall hangings where chivalry and courtly love set the tone. Subjects in which one could still taste the medieval art.

Slag bij Pavia, een 16de-eeuws Italiaans wandtapijt van Bernard van Orley.
Image: The Battle of Pavia, a 16th-century tapestry by artist Bernard van Orley (1491-1542). This vibrant tapestry depicts the battlefield near the city of Pavia in Italy, involving all Western European countries. The tapestry showcases a section of the battlefield. In the background, you can see the Mirabello Castle. This exquisite tapestry provides an accurate representation of the encampments and the soldiers’ gear of that time. Additionally, the artist used the same principles in the composition as were standard in painting. A triangle, highlighted by the yellow sections in flags and clothing, topped by a bright red explosion, form the centerpiece of the composition. This tapestry was produced between 1525 and 1542.
This tapestry of The Battle of Pavia by Bernard van Orley is displayed in the Museo di Capodimonte in the Italian city of Naples. This art museum is situated in a Bourbon palace in Naples, which served as the summer residence for the Kings of the Two Sicilies. Behind the museum is the Capodimonte park.

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