Renaissance artistry including painting, sculpturing and architecture took on some radical changes for their time. Some that are still used today. It shows us that these people living hundreds of years before technology were just as intelligent as we are today drowning in screen knowledge. Techniques and individual styles take leaps and bounds from what we have seen before this century in Europe. Becoming more familiar with nature, recovering classical learning, and a heightened awareness of individuality, we can see the shift from abstract to representational.
Enthusiasm for nature, humanistic learning, and independence were in fact present in the late medieval period (1000-1300) but became overwhelming in 15th and 16th century in Italy.
Social and financial changes, for example, the secularization of day to day life, the ascent of a cash/credit economy and the growth of the wealthy middle class expanded social versatility, the art, reviving the ancient classic style, builds on the original knowledge and explodes with new materials, technique and individuality, and art is now being sponsored or purchased by individuals (patrons) rather than only for the church and or religious purposes.
We recognize abstract art from the early middle ages in several ways. As early as 400-500s abstract art is seen using heavy repetition, pattern and shapes that suggest things of reality. The CHI-IOTA is a good example of the abstraction in art at this time. It is some of the oldest art known. Still in a time where art was just a labor job and done mostly by monks, this one is no exception.
It includes extravagant decorated lettering/ initials and uses the common design of patterns interlacing and repetition along with some weird faces.
Almost like a Where’s Waldo. additional pieces of artistry from this time of abstraction are The Gummer sack Brooch made by the Norse in the 6th century. In this piece you see all the abstract characteristics and it suggests boar heads, this came to be known as “Animal Style”. Another example of the characteristics of this early abstract art can be seen in the flat 1D painting of The Evangelist Matthew, The Book of Durrow. It depicted Matthew in an unrealistic pose. his feet are pointed the same way, no body shape, no arms. Its schematic and symmetrical. Almost denying any thought of realistic value. Constantine, the Roman Emperor at the time, converted to Christianity and art began to shift into works that made people feel the reality of God. Christian art exploded with storytelling in the paintings and architecture. The focus was on delivering the message of Christ through relatable scenes, though still abstract and lacking the realism that is to come in later centuries. 14th century philosophy encouraged an idea called humanism. focusing on human interests, needs, and abilities. This new way of thought changed how art was being created, as well as the subjects they were depicting. During the Middle Ages almost all subject in European art was based on religion, Christianity and the Catholic Church specifically.
Religious paintings still dominated the art but now with people buying the art and wanting paintings that were modern to their time, they looked to artists that were being influenced by humanism. They begin to branch out to other subjects which include Roman and Greek mythology, subjects from history, and portraits. details of everyday life became a focal point. Featured philosophers from The School of Athens such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates brought on the concept of representing a person, thing, or situation accurately or in a way that is true to life. ( ) This idea known as realism led to one of the biggest changes in art. Techniques of realistic art make the main object or person as well as background look like they would if you were really looking at them. This included giving the subjects stronger qualities of emotion like that can be seen in the painting by Italian artist Masaccio in The expulsion of Adam and Eve. The raw human feeling of remorse and shame can almost be felt by whomever is looking at this piece.
Additional innovations that brought abstraction to representational was access to new pigments and dye during this time that would be mixed with oil paints creating rich texture and the ability to enhance detail in the background and landscape that hadn’t been seen before. The use of atmospheric and linear perspective and illusion, created depth, thus making it appear as you would see it in real life.