What was the impact of the Renaissance on art?

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Renaissance art completely revitalized the entire concept of art in Europe. It branched out beyond the merely religious purpose of medieval artwork. It reflected a new humanist philosophy, and it engaged with its viewer in a novel yet natural way that had not been done since the end of the classical period.

For about one thousand years, nearly all the art produced during Europe's middle ages was for the purpose of religious instruction. Churches displayed most art, representing scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints. While Christian art certainly continued during the Renaissance, artists began to experiment with different genres. Classical themes were used, depicting scenes of the classical gods and mythological figures. Purely secular images also became more and more common. Portraits and nude studies proliferated during this period.

Renaissance art also reflected the new humanist philosophy. It sought to capture the role of the individual by displaying real emotion. This put a greater focus on the worldly matters of the human mind and spirit than before. Renaissance art had an intellectual and cerebral element to it that would influence later generations of artists. Subsequent generations of artists also sought to portray windows into human desires and character.

Renaissance art also sought to engage directly with the viewer. It was meant to transport the viewer directly into its scene. Sculptures in the Renaissance became freestanding objects that could be viewed from all sides. The paintings of the period showed depth, perspective, and scale in order to portray a lifelike scene. The subjects of sculpture and painting often look directly at the viewer or at an unseen part of their story with an expression that is meant to be interpreted. This often necessitated long hours of study by the artists in order to achieve their dynamic methods of display.

Many paintings and sculptures from this period are among the most famous in the world today. There was an appreciation for them during their own time too, and the greatest of Renaissance artists became celebrities in their own lifetimes.

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During the Renaissance, art was transformed in several ways, each of which has had enduring effects on Western art.

First, the secular spirit of the Renaissance led artists to emphasize physical beauty and perfection in their subjects. The human body in particular became a subject of particular fascination for artists, who portrayed the human form, often nude, in ways that emphasized physical perfection that was both realistic and idealized. In this, they harkened back to classical works that portrayed athletes, deities, and others in ways that emphasized physical beauty, especially in sculpture.

Second, the Renaissance brought a concern with technique that was largely absent during the medieval period. Painters experimented with new materials and techniques and emphasized such technical features as proportion, scale, and perspective. These remain concerns of modern artists.

Finally, the Renaissance ushered in a change in status for artists, who had previously been viewed as artisans. During the Renaissance artists were widely hailed as geniuses, even celebrities. Men like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were celebrated for their works, which were publicly displayed and, in some cases, earned them great wealth and status.

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