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Characteristics of Humanism Essay

Humanism is a term applied to the social philosophy and literary culture of the Western world during the Renaissance movements that spread across Europe. Washington State University, WSU, quoted on the internet: “Of all the practices of Renaissance Europe, nothing is used to distinguish the Renaissance from the Middle Ages more than humanism as both a program and a philosophy”. The Renaissance in Europe began in Italy, and with it the origin of humanism. The movement began as a response to the troubling times Italy had been facing in the years prior to the beginning of humanism. During the Fourteenth century, Italy had become overpopulated, which resulted in famine and the Black Death.

A deterioration for trading with China was another issue that we had to take in account.. Humanism was the intellectual movement responding to this crisis. They began to look at things that had been ignored in the Italian society, and brought ideas to the public eye that revolutionized philosophy and literature. Ancient Renaissance Philosophers say that “Renaissance humanism was considered a ‘rediscovery’ of the ancient classical learning of Greece and Rome.” The Renaissance is characterized by its emphasis on humanism, an emphasis that would have a tremendous impact upon the subsequent history of Western civilization.

Humanist studies placed us into a different world and changed the face of our lifestyle. Influential factors for Humanism were literature, art as well as music. It embraced concepts such as the supernatural as a created psychological human myth. People that where influential to the Humanism period, constructed this framework by coupling science with human reason to create an appropriate method for creating an interpretation of ultimate reality. Humanists generally denied the existence of anything outside of nature. They rejected many supernatural beliefs; however, disbelief in the supernatural is not a necessity for humanistic beliefs (Cunningham 287). Humanists believed science is based on nature, and humans learn from it. I will go into detail of the nature and beauty of Renaissance art that emphasizes on Humanism art within the work..

“The School of Athens ( 5.77 m * 8.14 m ) was painted by the 27 year old Raphael (Raffaelo) Sanzio (or Santi) for Pope Julius II (1503-1513)”(Michael Lahanas). We do not know all details of the people who are depicted. Giorgio Vasari, who is an Italian painter and architect, suggested that nearly all Greek philosophers and ancient scientists can be found on this painting. Beyond one of the most important people on this painting is Plato, Aristotle and Michelangelo. The painting frames in the most important part by setting up the focal point in the middle of the painting.

“Raphael’s School of Athens reflects a high degree of sensitivity to ordered space, a complete ease with Classical thought, obvious inspiration from the Roman architectural past, a brilliant sense of color and form, and a love for intellectual clarity-characteristics that could sum up the Renaissance ideal” (Cunningham 299). It does not only show characteristics of the Renaissance, but also characteristics of Humanism, for example it’s artistic creation on the walls, as well as the well planned building. Another thing that is associated with humanism is the social behavior of the people.

The Night figure was created by Michelangelo and it suppose to create the illusion of the figure either sleeping or being awake at the same point of time. Almost all of the female’s bodies that Michelangelo creates, have a masculine body structure as well as fake looking breasts. These two analytical founding are another proof of Humanism. The Article about the best Artists said: “He goes farther away from nature in these Medici figures than in any of his others and requires greater acquiescence from his viewers. Many are not willing to let him lift them so high off the ground. ‘She may be beautiful but she’s not a woman.’ ” People guessed that Michelangelo was gay, but it was never proofen as a fact.

The last artwork that I am going to describe is The Last Supper by Tintoretto. The Author of auction and sold mentioned that: “All the outstanding qualities of Tintoretto appear in this strikingly original and complex design. It is characteristic in using intensified streaks of light along limbs and garment-folds, to emphasize the direction of movement, and thus heighten the effect of dramatic action.”

In this painting you can see many characteristics of humanism that are shown by the people socializing, enjoying themselves and having seemingly unlimited amounts of food. In the bottom right of the painting, you have people who prepare the food and wash the dishes. This is another characteristic for humanism. We can also see angel like figures in the picture, that move towards the human that has the bright light around his head. This person should represent Jesus, and I believe that those angel or ghost looking creatures are the souls of his friends.

Our society is still influenced in the artists, and architects from the Renaissance time period. Humanistic ideas have proved to be of great educational value in the formation of civilized and responsible societies, and they are still alive in many intellectual beliefs today.

Work Cited

Cunningham, Lawrence S. Culture & Values. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Boston: Wadsworth, 06.

“Humanism.” Washington State University – Pullman, Washington. 04 July 2009 .

“Night by Michelangelo «.” The Best Artists. 03 July 2009 .

“Raphael’s School of Athens (1/2).” Hellenica, Information about Greece and Cyprus, Michael Lahanas. 06 July 2009 .

“Tintoretto – The Last Supper.” Old And Sold Antiques Auction. 07 July 2009 .


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