Our most recent lecture, Visuality through the Centuries, spoke about the beginnings of Renaissance Humanism. Artists took much more interest in the details of real life, such as the styles of fashion, flowers and architecture. They also looked into movement and tone, as well as branching into ancient myths and legends, despite the powerful influence of the church. In addition, portraiture became incredibly popular among the upper classes, as it became a symbol of wealth and status. This lecture covered a very long period of time and therefore a lot of information, so I decided to look at some of my favourite moments.

The 15th to 16th centuries saw the practice of famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Albrecht Durer. They each studied the human form in great detail, and the attention to movement and tone in their paintings had rarely been seen before. Da Vinci’s technique of Stumato (smokiness) was a new way of conveying tone and blending colour in a painting.

ImageLady with an Ermine, Leonardo Da Vinci

In contrast, Hieronymus Bosch, another painter working around this period, was creating surreal images depicting religious scenes. His most famous work known as The Garden of Earthly Delights, explores the concept of the tree of life, with the three levels of Heaven, Earth and Hell. Bosch was fixated with temptation and obsession with sin, and this remains a theme throughout his work. Many people describe Bosch as the first Surrealist, as his work features terrifying dreamlike scenarios, impossibilities, uncertainties.

ImageThe Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch

During the 17th century, the style began to change again. A classic example is Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The style is slightly looser, less like the perfectly sculpted forms of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. The edges are slightly blurred, and the lighting soft. The tiny white highlights in her eyes, lips and earring just where they catch the light make her seem warmer and more alive, compared to Michelangelo’s marble-like forms. An interesting feature of the 17th century was that artists strove to represent the subject accurately, rather than idealising it as in previous times.

Image Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer