Renaissance Art and Scientific Advancement

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The Renaissance was filled with new ideas and scientific advancements. Many of the artists and architects of the 15th through the 18th centuries employed these new forms of thought in their artwork. Mathematics gave a new perspective to art by creating lines that could deceive the eye. The developments in the science of anatomy allowed artists to give figures more realistic appearance. The invention of the printing press allowed art to be distributed to a more diverse group of people furthering the knowledge to a broader population.

During the early Renaissance, Brunelleschi, who was a goldsmith, architect, engineer, sculptor and mathematician, discovered principles of linear perspective. Using mathematics, he was able to create an illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane. He started with a horizontal line at a vanishing point and converged that line with other lines to make objects seem close or farther away. (Renaissance Art, n.d.) Brunelleschi was also famous for creating a massive dome for the Florence cathedral without the use of scaffolding or flying buttresses to support the weight of the structure. This technique of using mathematics to create a vanishing point and an illusion of three-dimensional space was used by many artists including Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. The linear perspective draws the eye of the viewer to the focal point of the art and creates an illusion of depth. Galileo used mathematics to show structure of physical space and motion, which he showed can be mathematically analyzed. (Dauben, Joseph, n.d.) A great example of this technique was done by the artist, Raphael, in his fresco painting of School of Athens. This work of art is a depiction of the greatest thinkers of all time, with Aristotle and Plato at the center of the work.

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During the Baroque period of the Renaissance, artists focused on creating more naturalistic and humanistic figures in art. The layers of muscle and bone structure of the human form was studied by the Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, who observed physicians. Artists were also contracted to illustrate texts in the field of anatomy. (Righthand, Jess., October 18, 2020). The study of anatomy can be seen in the works of art during the Baroque period. The men and women illustrated during that period are very realistic and engaged in some movement, where the muscles are tense, drawing an emotion from the viewer. There are many examples of this understanding of the human anatomy. Bernini’s sculpture of David is the depiction of David engaging in the act of fighting with Goliath. Every muscle is tense and the facial expression is unmistakably focused on the fight. The sculpture evokes emotion within the person viewing it. (Harris, Beth and Zucker, Steven, n.d.)

Another invention important to the Renaissance was Gutenberg’s printing press. Art, literature, pamphlets and texts could now be reproduced to circulate throughout the population. No longer does the average person have to travel to see the great works of art, now the art was reproducible and could be brought to different regions more easily. The printing press was invented in Germany around 1450. It was used during the Protestant Reformation to print books and illustrated pamphlets and ultimately motivated migration to the New World. (Noble, Bonnie J., n.d). Albrecht Durer was a successful painter who created both woodcut and engravings to mechanically reproduce art to disperse ideas. Durer studied art in Italy and brought the ideas home to the North. His most famous work was Melancholia, done in 1514 as an engraving. The art depicts the personification of melancholy. The figure is brooding with all the tools to create work, the figure is experiencing writer’s block.

In conclusion, advancements in mathematics and science are evident in the artwork of the 15th through 18th centuries. Inventions and new ideas are more easily dispersed and more diverse in the depictions of paintings, sculptures and architecture. The art is more expressive and realistic, evoking emotion within the viewer. There is a greater understanding for artist and art.

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