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Example research essay topic: Intellectual Life Of The Painters Early Renaissance - 1,302 words

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... e was in a much better placed to attain this position. The intellectual pursuits of the artists were not solely limited to the study of Latin and geometry. The study of antiquities also became important.

Classical archaeology started to be developed by enthusiastic humanists and artists. Some Renaissance artists no doubt saw the pursuit of archaeology as a means to achieve their intellectual ambitions. They perhaps also saw the potential to incorporate the archaeology-derived motifs into their works, the artists equivalent to the humanists texts on ancient civilisations. A distinction must be made between this classical archaeology and later scientific archaeology. The Renaissance artists had no need for the precision of todays archaeologists, they tried to recreate the spirit of the classical past by copying the antiques and learning from visual records, for use later in artistic projects.

Objects from the classical past were not new to the Renaissance artist; they had been used as inspiration throughout the centuries before 1400. During the early Renaissance much more focused archaeological attitudes were developed towards the classical past. One of the first examples of the information gained from archaeological endeavours being put into use by the artists was the medal. The medals were very closely derived from Roman coins. Today the differences are quite obvious, but at the time due to the relative lack of samples the style would have been enough to fool most people. This is not to say that the artists were trying to create forgeries, they were made for patrons to give the ideas of the genuine artefact.

There was a great degree of difference in the educational expectations of the art theorists and the artist concerned with studio practice of his art. For this reason there is very little evidence that the artists themselves were concerned with the theoretical or intellectual issues during the first half of the fifteenth century. There are of course exceptions, again Alberti stands out with his treatise De Picture written in 1435. Alberts unusually advanced education in comparison with his contemporaries explains this exception. Alberti's treatise was first released in Latin suggesting that it was written for the educated court readers. The majority of artists were unable to read Latin; it was later translated into vernacular so it could be used as a guide to painters.

In the late fifteenth century the trend for artists to abstain from theoretical discussions began to change with some picking up the pen to write on theory and practice. They were sometimes trying to gain footholds on the intellectuals territory. They even started writing poetry and responding to classical and contemporaries texts. As the early Renaissance unfolds there are increasing instances of artists expanding their intellectual scope in this way.

There are an increasing number of artists getting involved in debates usually participated in by the art theorists; one such argument was concerning the importance of paintings. It is in this debate that Leonardo was going to air his views in his unwritten treatise on painting: Those sciences that are imitable are of such kind that through them the disciple can equal the master... Amongst these, painting has first place. It cannot be taught to someone not endowed with it by nature... Such singularity gives it greater excellence than those things that are spread abroad. # The argument about the importance of painting, especially with regard sculpture raged for over one hundred years. The argument was fought both through works of art and also through text on the subjects.

It engaged the intellectual energies of many Renaissance artists. It was in the presentation of their arguments that they were given the opportunity to demonstrate their intellectual prowess in both discourse and works of art. One of the most important debates, from the artists point of view, was the status of painting as a liberal art. If painting were a liberal art then it would be a pursuit worthy of courtiers and so bolster the artists social and intellectual level. This debate took one of its forms in whether paintings could be considered wordless poems. It was perhaps to aid in this debate or just to gain a better social standing that many Renaissance artists aspired to write poetry.

The early attempts were not very well received but by the first decade of the sixteenth century some of the poetry was very respectable. It was in the artists that reached maturity at the turn of the century that we can see a profound change. In these artists we can observe a high degree of verbal as well as pictorial skill. The best example of one such artist is Michelangelo.

He succeeded in the literary world almost as much as he did with painting and sculpture. It is in this period that the artists become much more self-aware and have greater belief in their talents and intellectual abilities developed quickly. This is reflected in their position in society as well. Drer wrote in a letter to Willibold Pirckheimer from Venice in 1506, here I am a gentleman, at home only a parasite. This statement is not a true reflection of his standing in Germany, he, in few years after this was written, was accepted to sit on the Great Council in Nuremberg, it does however highlight the growing status of artists in Italy and particularly in Venice.

At the beginning of the period in question we can see the artist as a craftsman and member of the artisan class. This is reflected in his training at the bottega, which did not contain any wider intellectual training. Over the course of the early Renaissance this began to change, whether it was due to the aspirations of the artists or the pressures of the patron, that the artists stared pursuing intellectual training, is up for debate. Most likely the answer lies between the two, patrons wanted works that contained religious or mythical themes, and these were based on texts written almost exclusively in Latin. The artist could pay someone to translate but this could become costly.

Also knowledge of Latin was essential to be considered an equal in intellectual circles. The use of perspective required knowledge of geometry beyond that of most of the artists schooling, the patron again was a driving force for painters to master this skill. The preoccupation with the classical on the part of the humanist required the artist to gain knowledge of forms and motifs from this period, as a consequence painters become involved in archaeology to gain this knowledge. The reasons for the shift of the artists into literary pursuits are probably more to do with social stature than the demands of a patron. Although there is no doubt a well-educated artist who also has a command of poetry would be in higher demand and receive a greater fee. I feel it is the prestige awarded to their profession that is the driving force behind this move.

As the intellectual pursuits multiply, from learning Latin, geometry, anatomy and archaeology, then moving into the fields of poetry and debate. We can see the extent of the artists intellectual life grows from fairly non-existent to a major component. The level of intellectual activity on the part of the artist can be seen directly in the progression from craftsman to courtier during the early Renaissance. Bibliography Alberti, L. B. , Leon Battista Alberti On painting and On Sculpture, ed. and trans.

C. Grayson, London 1972 Ames-Lewis, F. , The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000. Burke, P. , The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1972. Kemp, M. and M. Walker, eds, Leonardo on Painting, New Haven and London, 1989.

Vasari, G. , trans Bull, G. , Lives of the artists, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1987.


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