The Renaissance, which occurred from 1350 to 1550, caused new ways of thinking and new forms of cultural expression to be developed. Humanism, education, political thought, Christian humanism, artistic styles, and artists and their patrons were all new ways of thinking and cultural expressions that developed and changed during the age of the Renaissance.
One new way of thinking that was developed was humanism. In the 13th century, Francesco Petrarch believed writers and artists from Rome reached the perfection that had not been reached again since. He wanted the writers of his time to imitate those writers, and he believed that if they did, there would be a new age of intellectual achievement. Petrarch suggested a new type of education, which became known as the liberal studies, where young men would study the writings of ancient Roman authors to learn how to write precisely, argue with strong points, and persuade others effectively. Humanism’s view was that the achievements and the nature of humans were worth reflecting on. 15th century humanists were fascinated with Greek philosophy, specifically the thoughts of Plato. They believed that he was a precursor to Christ and his ideas were seen as similar to the ideas of Christianity. Humanists also focused on individual accomplishments, specifically those who had become brilliant despite their background. They believed that some people had the quality of virtù, meaning that those people could shape the world based on their will. Renaissance writers wrote biographies about those who might have virtù or those who had reached excellence, sometimes including themselves.
Education was another new way of thinking. Humanists believed studying the classics would help future politicians, diplomats, lawyers, military leaders, businessmen, writers, and artists. They also thought this type of learning would be broader and better than the education from universities. Humanists thought all people should be educated, not just the people who could afford to so they opened schools where students studied various subjects that would help them in life. It was debated among the humanists whether women should be allowed to go to school as well. Women educated themselves and wrote letters and published writings to argue that education shouldn’t be just for men. Political thought was another new way of thinking during the Renaissance. Humanists wrote biographies of rulers who were just and wise. In return, these rulers would give authors positions at court or give them large payments. Humanists also disagreed on what type of government was best. Some thought a republican government was the ideal form of government and others believed that there should be one enlightened ruler. However, both believed that educated men should be involved in the politics of their city. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince which said that the purpose of any ruler is to keep order and security and the ruler should do anything necessary, such as lying, to keep this order and security as long as these actions didn’t make the people hate the ruler. He also believed that governments shouldn’t be judged on moral principles, but on how well they provide order and safety. Many disagreed with Machiavelli because they didn’t like the government using force or cruelty, even if it as to keep order.
Another new idea as Christian humanism. In the 15th century, students from countries like France, Germany, and England went to Italy to learn the new type of learning and then took it back to their countries. Northern humanists wanted to use classics to reform the church and believed that classical and Christian cultures should be combined. For example, the classical ideas of calmness and patience went along with Christian ideas. Thomas More wrote the dialogue Utopia which described a perfect society in which there is no poverty and everyone is happy. It is believed that More wrote this to criticize his society and his writings were read all around Europe. Humanist Desiderius Erasmus wrote a book combining suggestions for a ruler’s character through the study of classical authors and the Bible. Erasmus had two main themes in his writings. One was that education in the Bible and classics was necessary for reform. The other was that renewal should be based on inner spirituality, not studying theology or going on pilgrimages.
Artistic styles were a new form of cultural expression that changed a lot from the Middle Ages. Religious topics were still popular, but patrons would often have their families put into the paintings. Classical themes such as the lives of pagan gods and goddesses became more popular in paintings and sculptures. Painters began to make portraits which showed human ideals in the realistic style that was also becoming popular. Florentine painter Giotto was one of the first to use realism by removing the stiffness that had usually been there in portraits. Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna were the first to use perspective, which showed distance and space on a two-dimensional surface. This helped with adding realism to a painting. In the 16th century, the focus of art shifted from Florence to Rome where wealthy cardinals and popes wanted paintings to show their families’ power and piety. Popes also spent a lot of money on decorating the city by hiring painters. The artist Titian sped up the process of making paintings by not elaborately drawing the design first. He also helped come up with a style called mannerism, where artists would distort figures or add more color to show emotions better.Another new way of thinking was artists and their patrons.
Wealthy individuals, patrons, hired painters to make specific works of art. Some patrons rewarded their artists well and some artists became publicly famous. Patrons also varied in their level of involvement during the creation of their art. Artists, no matter how good, were still expected to be trained and go to art school because people didn’t think artistic genius could present itself in an untrained artist. Most artists were male and came from wealthy families, since the art women did, such as needlework, was considered minor art and wasn’t as important. Men of wealth used to spend their money on weapons and military gear but were now spending it on paintings and sculptures.Humanism, education, political thought, Christian humanism, artistic styles, and artists and their patrons were new ideas and forms of expression that were developed in the age of the Renaissance. Humanism was a new way of thinking that changed the viewpoint of many people, education became more important and available to people, and political thought caused many to change their ideas on how governments and rulers should be. Christian humanism combined classical and Christian ideas, and artistic styles changed a lot from the time of the Middle Ages and many new styles were formed. Lastly, artists were hired by patrons to create art and some became famous for their art.