Friday, October 1, 2010

Fra Angelico, Annunciation, 1438-45

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, c. 1482

James Turrell's Live Oaks Friends Meeting House, 2000

This week we discussed the transition from the Gothic to the Early Italian Renaissance period in both architecture and painting. A renewed interest in Classical antiquity and the development of linear perspective related to highly developed ideals of geometric symmetry. The interest that wealthy patrons like the Medici's took in art was also a critical factor in the dedication of resources to artistic practice and production.

The illusion of light and space became important strategies for artists working in the period, although traditional symbolism remained in play, and this illusion has continued to resonate through architecture, theater, dance, and art for centuries. This week there are two discussion questions. 

Did perspective allow artists to depict spatial reality more accurately? 

In this period, the role of the artist was elevated. Remember that icons were considered to be of divine origin, not created by human work. Do you think that the model of church and lay patronage was freeing or limiting for artists? How does it relate to art practices today?


  1. In my opinion, perspective helps artists illustrate spatial reality accurately. However, I think perspective makes the artists represent "space" in a very monotonous and rigid way. It transfers observation directly onto the piece, so that it limits the artist to draw freely.

    In terms of churches and patrons, both are the basic sources that "rule" and "run" the arts during that period of time, thus they were inevitably limiting the artist in creating art outside the code. Nowadays, artists and sponsors or galleries would freely state and discuss what kind of art they are expecting to show. But I think in most cases it would be the artist who determines what kind of art he/she is going to create, not the sponsors.

  2. Today there is definitely a larger range of excepted ideas for artists to explore but artists will always be limited by their patron whether they be a Gallery a Church or some rich guy who wants to show off.
    Perspective did seem to allow artist to depict reality more accurately.

  3. It is interesting compare the mentality of the artist today to that of the Early Renaissance artist because we see a great disparity in the concept of artistic freedom. I think the renaissance WAS a period of great freedom as it expanded the unofficial list of what was an appropriate use of artistic technique. I think a greater example of pre-modern artistic limitation is the French Academy which produced a physical, hierarchical list of subjects that were acceptable for painting. At this time, some artists rebelled, but often their art was not appreciated by the public. However, when we put our contemporary ideas of creative freedom up against those of the Renaissance these is quite a difference, but I believe much of that difference is due to our collective mastery of technique that had not yet been achieved by Renaissance artists.

  4. There is an interesting piece in the NYTimes today in which the novelist Michael Cunningham talks about the problem of having too much freedom, of not knowing who we make art for. Take a look:

  5. The church as an artistic platform, while potentially appropriative of an artist's work, has been expressed by Turrell to be a transformative power to the church (in terms of space and ideology) rather than a submissive one. There are questions of cultural identity which of course must be answered by the church, as in their intentions of using the artists' work as an influence towards the public.
    I strongly disagree with Grace Stott. I think the use of the gallery space has opened up an immense amount of artistic freedom in a privatized society. The role of the church has shifted and has become at ends with the art world for this reason. As can be noted from James Turrell's work of formulating the church as a means of public greeting and discourse, the role of the gallery has become something comparable to that of the church's.