15 Popular French Painters and their Amazing Paintings
If you have ever been interested in French painters, you must have seen the paintings of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave. Grotte Chauvet is a beautiful painted cave in France. It has several very large galleries with more than 300 paintings and engravings. These were probably done 32,000 to 30,000 years ago. So we can say that the art of Painting was invented by French people.
The paintings of this cave show rhinoceros, felines, bears, owls, and mammoths, as well as animals such as owls, hyenas, and panthers which have never – or very rarely – been found in previous paintings of this period. In fact, some archaeologists believe that these may be the oldest known paintings in the world. Therefore, they are very special.
We won’t trace the history of painting back to the caveman here. Rather, we are listing 15 french painters of the pre & post-impressionist era.
Nicolas Poussin was one of the greatest French Painters of the 17th century and the founder of his country’s classical school. With him, French painting went beyond France and became a European affair, mirroring the power of the age of Louis XIV. By the mid-1630s, he began exploring a serene, classical style inspired by Raphael and antiquity.
Poussin’s great passion was history, and he told noble, epic, and stirring tales through his art. He made meticulous preparations before starting a painting. He did historical research, trained himself in archaeology and the study of coins, and carefully checked the authenticity of his research.
Before painting, he made models from wood and wax, from which he made his preliminary sketches. Poussin’s work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. The finest collection of Poussin’s paintings, in addition to his drawings, is located in the Louvre in Paris.
Claude Lorraine was an influential and successful artist in the seventeenth century. His paintings were picturesque and full of the rough textures of wild nature with romantic old castles or classical ruins.
Claude created landscapes that were expansive and dramatic. His chief contribution to classical landscape painting was the masterly treatment of light. He often gave the foreground strong contrasts of light and shadow, while the middle distance had less contrast.
The far background was rendered even lighter, and with fewer contrasts to give a sense of great distance. While the subjects of his paintings and drawings were often from the Bible or classical mythology, the mood and atmosphere of the landscape was the real subject. His figures were usually only a minor part of a scene to help set the scale and perspective. Claude’s style set the standards for what was worthy of appreciation.
Jean Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in color and movement. He invented a new type of painting, called the ‘Fete Galante’. These large scenes of well-to-do men and women enjoying themselves outdoors allowed him to showcase his talent for conveying the delights and enchantments of nature.
Some of his best-known subjects were drawn from the world of Italian comedy and ballet. Jean Antoine showed artistic ability at a young age. He went to Paris in 1702 with the hope of entering a studio where he could refine his art.
Around 1708, his small and human battle paintings attracted the attention of perceptive dealers and collectors. He was invited by the financier Crozatto live and work in his home, filled with Venetian and Flemish paintings and drawings, and it was there that he developed the fete Gallante. During his 15-year artistic career, Antoine dealt with a wide variety of subjects and techniques and is now regarded as a forerunner of the impressionists in his handling of color and study of nature.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Jean-August-Dominique Ingres was a French neoclassical painter, and one of the major portrait painters of the 19th century. Ingres felt that drawing was the very heart of the painting, and he drew and redrew whatever he was to paint until he understood all its elements. Though he valued history painting above all else, he also often produced portraits, some of the best of which are drawings.
Ingres lived in Rome from 1806 to 1820, and it was there that he developed his extraordinary gifts for drawing and design. He helped support himself by making portrait drawings of visitors to Rome. These drawings are skillful, concise masterpieces. Ingres’s outstanding use of place, light, and character in these seemingly casual portrait drawings make these works masterpieces in their own right. Ingres’ greatest achievement, perhaps, was his portraits of women. Though not all Ingres’ models were beauties, he found something special about each one of them.
Eugene Delacroix was the most important of the French painters in Romantic genre. His inspiration came chiefly from historical or contemporary events or literature, and a visit to Morocco in 1832 provided him with further exotic subjects. His remarkable use of color was to later influence even modern artists The colors and violent contrasts of North Africa inflamed his work.
He became one of the greatest wildlife painters and made his painted animals seem alive. He loved natural beauty in the movements of animals and spent time at the zoo sketching tigers, lions, horses, and any other animals that caught his imagination. His experiences in Morocco and Algiers provided him with exotic subjects such as the Algerian women who enchanted him.
He sketched them at their daily activities, noting the minutest details of color and design. His expressive works also depicted historic, religious, and literary themes. Delacroix was very proud of the speed at which he worked. It is said that he worked so fast that he could sketch a man falling out of a window in the time it took for the man to hit the ground! Now isn’t that truly remarkable?
Paul Cezanne was a French artist whose work is said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism, and the early 20th century’s new artistic style, Cubism. His work demonstrates a mastery of design, color, composition, and craftsmanship.
Cezanne was born in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, on January 19th, 1839, the son of a wealthy banker. Cezanne’s boyhood companion was Emile Zola, who later gained fame as a novelist. Many of Ce`zanne’s early works were painted in dark tones.
Later, Cezanne shifted from dark tones to bright hues and began to concentrate on scenes of farmland and rural villages. Cezanne, who exhibited little in his lifetime, is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting. He is known both for the way that he managed to put down on canvas precisely what his eye saw in nature, and for what he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and color.
Jean Francois Millet
French painter Jean-Francois Millet was one of the founding members of the Barbizon Landscape School in France. He was the son of a small peasant of Greville in Normandy. His early work comprised of conventional portraits and fashionable eighteenth-century pastoral scenes.
However, he gained fame for his depiction of the life of the peasants of that time. Millet painted laborers going about their daily business. He made the countryside look dignified, and his peasants look heroic.
In The Angelus’, his best-known work, Millet shows a hard-working couple at work in the fields with their heads bowed before the magnificence of nature. Among the French artists of the 19th century, he stands out as a man who found inspiration in the everyday life of ordinary people.
Gustav Courbet was an artist who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. He believed that every artist should be his own teacher. By 1850, he was shocking the public with the style known as Realism, and with the scale of his paintings.
In December of that year, he exhibited three huge canvases of peasant life. They were vast, and normally such enormous size was reserved for history paintings of more ‘important’ subjects. One of Courbet’s most important works is ‘Burial at Ornans’, a canvas recording an event which he witnessed in September 1848. This painting of the funeral of his grand uncle became the first masterpiece in the Realist style. People who had attended the funeral were used as models for the painting.
Courbet worked with social issues and focused on the peasantry and the grave working conditions of the poor. He believed that the Realist artist’s mission was the pursuit of truth and that by doing so, an artist could improve social conditions and inequality. Courbet’s particular kind of realism influenced a number of artists who followed him.
French artist Gustav Moreau is known for his strange and mystical works, often portraying scenes from mythology or religion. Morea u painted for a number of years without exhibiting his work, but during this time, he developed his unique style.
He spent many hours studying Persian, Indian, and Japanese prints and from them took motifs, which he used to create his own vision of myths and religions. He became one of the leading artists of the Symbolist style. Moreau emphasized the morbid side of life and death. His landscapes often showed steep and rocky cliffs with twisted trees.
He had a feeling for the bizarre and developed a style that is highly distinctive in the subject and technique. He was a withdrawn person who lived alone. When he died, on the 18th of April 1898, he left to the state his house, containing about 8000 pictures, watercolors, cartoons, and drawings, which form the Moreau gallery. It is considered one of the best-organized collections in Paris.
Jacques-Louis David, a French painter, was a supporter of the French Revolution, and one of the leading figures of the style known as Neoclassicism. He spent six years in Rome, and it was during this period that he abandoned the grand manner of his early work and turned to a stark and highly finished style.
His works now upheld the antique virtues of self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, honesty, and austerity. They had a strong moral influence on the times he lived in. David later became an active supporter of the French Revolution and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic.
Later, he was imprisoned, and on his release, he became a supporter of Napoleon I. It was at this time that he developed his ‘Empire style’ notable for its use of warm Venetian colors. David had a huge number of pupils, making him the strongest influence in the French art of the 19th century.
Paul Gauguin is considered one of the leading painters of the post-impressionist period. Gauguin began his career as a stockbroker in Paris in 1872. He attended the Impressionist’s first exhibition in 1874 and was captivated by the impressionist style.
In 1883, the bank that employed Gauguin experienced financial difficulties, and he found himself free to paint full-time. Much of his work during this period was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Pissarro. Later, he began to adopt his own independent style.
Gauguin’s break with the Impressionists came when he painted ‘Vision after the Sermon’, where he tried to depict the inner feelings of his subjects. This painting also marked the start of a new painting style that came to be known as ‘Symbolism’.
Gauguin spent the last years of his life in Tahiti, an island in the Pacific Ocean. In Tahiti, his painting style evolved to reflect the Pacific Islands’ primitive forms and brilliant colors. His striking images of Polynesian women rank among the most beautiful paintings of the modern age.
Henri Rousseau created some of the most popular and memorable paintings of the modern era. He never received any formal training and his work. Therefore, has an innocence and charm that made his paintings very famous. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.
Rousseau is celebrated for his visionary jungle paintings which captivate the viewer with the lushness of their plant and animal life. The scenes are painted with incredible detail and precision. What is amazing is that the artist never saw the tropical scenes he brought so much to life, as he never left France!
His exotic jungle paintings are the fantasies of a city dweller, constructed from visits to the zoo and botanical gardens, from postcards, books, and from Rousseau’s own vivid imagination. Rousseau claimed he had ‘no teacher other than nature’, and his works have influenced later painters, including Picasso.
Georges Seurat was a French painter and draftsman. His large work ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte/ is his most famous painting. It altered the direction of modern art and is one of the icons of 19th-century painting. Georges Seurat is the ultimate example of the artist as a scientist.
He spent his life studying color theories, and the effects of different linear structures. His 500 drawings alone establish Seurat as a great master. He will always be remembered for his technique of portraying light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors. This technique became known as pointillism.
Using this technique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color too small to be distinguished when looking at the entire work, but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance.
Paul Signac was a French painter, one of the originators of the technique known as pointillism, or divisionism. Under the influence of Georges Seurat, he abandoned the short brushstrokes of impressionism to experiment with small dots of pure color, intended to combine and blend, not on the canvas, but in the viewer’s eye. This was the main feature of what is known as pointillism.
Many of Signac’s paintings are of the French coast. He left the capital each summer, to stay in the South of France in the village of Collioure or at St. Tropez, where he bought a house and invited his friends. Signac loved sailing, and he began to travel in 1892, sailing a small boat to almost all the ports of France, to Holland, and around the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople.
From his various ports of call, Signac brought back vibrant, colorful watercolors, sketched rapidly from nature. From these sketches, he painted large studio canvases that are carefully worked out in small, mosaic-like squares of color, quite different from the tiny, variegated dots previously used by Seurat. Signac himself experimented with various media. He made etchings, lithographs, and many pen-and-ink sketches composed of small, laborious dots.
Henri Toulouse was a leading french artist whose paintings, lithographs, and posters contributed much to the development of Art Nouveau in the 1890s. He was also a harsh and witty chronicler of the gaudy nightlife and the sordid elements of late 19th century Parisian society.
Toulouse had to fight against many disadvantages. He had two accidents that crippled him, and also a speech problem. But he was determined to succeed as an artist. He haunted the dance halls and nightclubs of Montmartre in Paris, taking his subjects from his observations of what occurred on stage and among the patrons.
He chose acid and garish colors and adopted a drawing style that is almost grotesque in its exaggerations. Toulouse’s career spanned less than twenty years. During this period, he created 737 canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, 5,084 drawings, some ceramic and stained glass work, and an unknown number of lost works.
Toulouse is known along with Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin as one of the greatest painters of the Post Impressionist period. He excelled at capturing people in their working environment, with the color and the movement of the gaudy nightlife present, but the glamour stripped away … and therein lay his greatness.
Impressionism: 7 Extraordinary French Painters and their Works
Impressionism is not a transient technique, but one true philosophy, of all painting. George Moore, a famous Irish Novelist once said that “Impressionism penetrates all true painting” and only “in its most modern sense signifies the rapid noting of elusive appearance.” We’re listing here 7 French Impressionist painters, including some of the founding fathers of this technique.
French painter Camille Pissarro was one of the major members of the style of painting called French Impressionism. This was a major movement, first in painting, and later in music, that developed chiefly in France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The French Impressionists were a group of artists who shared a set of similar approaches and techniques. They tried to record accurately and objectively what they saw in terms of light and color. Pissarro painted a wide variety of subjects including cityscapes, still life, portraits, landscapes, scenes of peasants.
Pissarro progressed from dark landscapes to brighter impressionism. He often chose Highview points, painting a city landscape for example, from a top window. Although Pissarro never sold his paintings for much during his lifetime, today they fetch millions of dollars in art auctions.
Edouard Manet was a French painter who was often identified with the ‘Impressionists’ and was influenced by them. However, because the Paris art world generally did not favor this style, he chose not to exhibit them. He was a revolutionary in that he broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and people of his own time.
However, he craved official recognition and preferred to show his work in the more conservative exhibitions sponsored by the French government. Manet’s style in this period was characterized by loose brush strokes and simplification of details. He used expressive outlines, severe lighting contrasts, bold colors, and rich texture to portray the world around him.
Manet’s paintings of cafe scenes are observations of social life in 19th century Paris. Manet painted scenes from 19th-century history, including one work featuring the execution of Emperor Maximillian of Mexico in 1867. Manet’s early works ‘The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia’ created great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create the style known as Impressionism. Today, they are considered to be the genesis of modern art.
Edgar Degas was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking, and drawing. His career was a long one, and his style, unlike that of most famous artists who worked into their old age, never ceased developing, always seeking out new means of expression and technique.
His personal wealth gave him the freedom to devote himself to art, and his subjects were usually from his own background. Degas also painted portraits of his family and friends and a number of historical subjects, in which he combined classical and romantic styles.
In the early 1870s, the female ballet dancer became his favorite theme. He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes.
Degas is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. Degas’s style, subject matter, and artistic sensibility set him apart from the other Impressionists of the time.
Claude Monet was one of the founding fathers of French Impressionism. His life as a painter did not begin until he was befriended by Eugene Boudin, who introduced Monet to the practice – then uncommon – of painting in the open air.
He then turned away from the traditional style of painting inside a studio. Along with his friends, he went outside to the Fontainebleau forest to paint. But the public and art critics ridiculed these new paintings that looked so different from any conventional art style and called them Impressionist.
Though the name was given in ridicule, it stuck, and the style came to be known as the Impressionist style. In 1890, Monet began to paint systematically the same subjects under different light conditions. The first subjects were the haystacks behind his house.
As the light changed during the day faster than he could paint, he worked simultaneously on several canvases. In the end, he had painted twenty-five different versions of the haystacks!
Many more paintings followed – the Rouen Cathedral, views of Venice or the Thames in London with the Houses of Parliament and other landmarks ‘in London – often in the fog. At his home in Giverny, Monet created the water-lily pond that served as inspiration for his last series of paintings.
Pierre Renoir was a French painter originally associated with the Impressionist movement. However, he differed from the other Impressionist painters. He was more interested in painting individuals or family groups than in painting landscapes.
His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.
Renoir began work as a painter in a porcelain factory in Paris. Later, he began to study painting formally. In the early 1870s, Renoir and his friends joined with other artists to form a loose-knit artistic circle now known as the Impressionist movement.
He later grew dissatisfied with the formal restrictions of pure impressionism. Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his subjects-pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes – have instant appeal, and he communicated the joy he took in them with great directness.
Berthe Morisot was a French painter and printmaker who was associated with Impressionism. She experimented with seascapes but her personal style developed most markedly during the 1880s.
It was sketchy with pale colors and included subjects from her own experience including women, children, and domestic life. She was one of the first women to challenge established art circles. Continue reading if you are interested in the 17 most popular Italian Renaissance Italian painters.
Italian Renaissance: 17 Most Popular Painters & Their Works
Italian Renaissance: The story of painting goes as far back as 20,000 years ago, to a time when Man had not yet learned to write. He looked around the world and tried to reproduce what he saw in drawings. The man was just a caveman in those days, and the history of art began in caves. Art has progressed through the ages. It has organized itself into different styles in terms of form, as well as the content. Many painters belong to certain movements, giving different treatment to space, perspective, light, and color.
The Renaissance painters depicted the human figure as realistically as possible, often with backgrounds of the natural world. Careful use of light and shadow made figures appear full and real. Renaissance painters not only portrayed objects with more realism, they often filled their canvases with more objects, all carefully and accurately depicted.
The Renaissance period has produced some of the most famous painters, and writers in the history of mankind. Most of them belong to either Italy or France. They include Brunelleschi, Giotto, Donatello, Botticelli, Masaccio, Andrea Mantegna, Piero Della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian, along with a host of other artists and intellectuals.
Cimabue – First Modern Painter
Cimabue was a major artist working in Florence at the end of the 13th century. He was born in Florence in 1240 AD. When Cimabue was learning to paint in the 1260s, Italian painters were still copying the style of Byzantine art which always had gold backgrounds.
It generally showed saints and angels, as well as Jesus and Mary in very formal, stiff positions, to show how important these figures were, and that they were not like real people. The figures were flat, and very little effort was made to show their muscles or the shadows that would make them look real. Cimabue was associated with a style of painting known as gothic art, and he was also an important forerunner of the later international gothic style.
He introduced a lifelike treatment of traditional religious subjects and was also famous for his wall paintings. His most famous work,’Madonna Enthroned’, stood three and a half meters high! He is considered by some experts to be the first ‘modern painter’.
Giotto di Bondone
Giotto was an Italian painter, who was a student and contemporary of Cimabue. It is said that Giotto was a shepherd boy scratching pictures of sheep on rocks when Cimabue discovered him. Giotto first worked on mosaics before his interests spread to painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Giotto worked mainly in-wall or fresco painting. He is known for beginning to put in natural landscape backgrounds to his painting, as opposed to the plain gold backgrounds favored by the older Cimabue. His figures were lifelike, and he painted the outdoors with glorious realism and colors.
He changed the history of painting by taking the portrayal of people and places to new levels. His art shines with truth and humanity, and his figures are flesh-and-blood individuals who convincingly express joy, anger, fear, horror, and grief.
Simone Martini was an Italian painter, who was one of the most original and influential artists of the Sienese school. He was born in Siena, a city in West Central Italy, and apprenticed in the workshop of Sienese master Duccio di Buoninsegna, where he developed his style and reputation early.
Simone created his own versions of many of Duccio’s greatest works. But, in doing so, he applied his own sense of decorative charm to traditional subjects, and soon became known for his unique combination of older Byzantine and French Gothic styles. Simone became most famous in Siena with the fresco of the Maesta in the Palazzo Pubblico. Over the succeeding years, his career grew rapidly.
Many of Simone’s important works show his developing sense of landscape and realism. Simone was a master in depicting figures and portraits. He paid particular attention to facial features that gave his subjects complex characters and emotions. Figures were always finished with scrupulous attention to detail, and his work is admired to this day both for its spirituality and its realism.
Fra Angelico was a Dominican monk and a famous Italian painter of the early Renaissance Florentine School. Though his name was Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, he. earned his nickname through his unusually pious nature. He was called Angelico which is Italian for ‘angelic’ because the paintings he did were of calm, religious subjects, and because of his extraordinary personal piety.
One of Fra Angelico’s most extensive projects was the decoration of the Dominican Monastery of San Marco in Florence between 1435 and 1445. His skill in creating monumental figures representing motion and suggesting deep space, mark him as one of the foremost painters of the Renaissance. He earned fame for his technical skill, and he never retouched or altered any of his paintings, for he believed that to do so would be going against the will of God.
Paolo Uccello – Founders of the Renaissance
Paolo Uccello was an Italian painter who wanted to present objects in three-dimensional forms in order to create a feeling of depth in his paintings. It is said that he would stay up all night, trying to determine the exact vanishing point of an object! He loved using the forms and movement of humans and animals in his paintings. I n fact, Paolo Uccello’s paintings are very famous for their tangles of horses, riders, lances and pennants, helmets, and bits of landscape.
Uccello’s greatest paintings were three panels titled ‘The Battle of San Romano’, ‘Night Hunt’, and ‘The Deluge’. Other paintings are ‘portraits of Sir John Hawkins’, ‘Giotto’, ‘Brunelleschi’, ‘Donatello’, and ‘St. George and the Dragon’. Paolo Uccello’s paintings resemble life and confuse us into mistaking illusions for reality. His use of brilliant colors and fantastic effects left a lasting impact on his viewers, and he was considered one of the founders of the Renaissance movement in painting.
Tommaso Masaccio – Italian Renaissance
Tommaso Masaccio was a renowned painter of frescoes during the Italian Renaissance. ‘Masaccio’ meaning ‘sloppy’ was a nickname given to him because his dedication to his painting was so great that he gave little attention to his personal hygiene!
Masaccio is noted for his advanced use of perspective in order to create more realistic figures. He also moved away from the Gothic style of the time to a more naturalistic style. His greatest works were his frescoes done for the Bancacci Chapel in Florence.
Tommaso Masaccio was a major influence on the later Italian Renaissance painters, primarily Michelangelo. Masaccio managed to paint a few pictures of such an enormous impact as to affect not only the whole future course of Florentine painting but also that of European fine art painting. As a result, he is considered as one of the founding fathers of Renaissance art.
An Italian painter and engraver, Andrea Mantegna painted heroic figures, often using a dramatic perspective1hat gives the viewer the illusion of looking up from below. The effect is somewhat the same as looking up from ground level at statues mounted on a pedestal – and this is what made his work so different.
A series of nine paintings, titled ‘Triumph of Caesar’, that Mantegna started in 1486 shows his interest in imperial Rome. In one famous work, called the ‘Camera Degli Sposi’ or the ‘Wedding Chamber’, he painted the walls and ceiling of a small interior room, transforming it into an open-air pavilion. Rooms creating this sort of illusion became very popular in the 1600s.
Botticelli – Painter of ‘Birth of Venus’
Born in 1445, Sandro Botticelli was an important painter during the Italian Renaissance. He is known for the dreamy look of the people, gods, goddesses, and angels in his paintings. The way he painted faces was so special. Each face was different but full of life and beautiful in its own way.
Botticelli painted many religious and mythological scenes. One of his most famous paintings is the ‘Birth of Venus’. This shows the Goddess Venus emerging from a seashell, and the painting is remarkable in that the weight of the body is distributed unequally so that the figure forms one continuous curve. It remains, to this day, one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.
Leonardo da Vinci
The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the history of art. Leonardo da Vinci is the creator of this masterpiece. It is said that when he was 14, Leonardo had painted the picture of a dragon that looked so real that it actually scared his father!
Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the greatest artists and thinkers of all time. In addition to his paintings, da Vinci was an accomplished sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and ‘ scientist. The painting shows a beautiful woman seated in an armchair on a balcony. Behind her, a landscape can be seen. Leonardo has seated her so that the fig u re seems almost alive. Her smile is mysterious, and nothing in the painting appears fixed. All the shapes seem to sway and flow gently into one another, and the figure and landscape are perfectly harmonized. Experts believe Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa in Italy over a long period beginning about 1505.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is a mural by Leonardo da Vinci that was painted on a wall of the dining hall in the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The idea was that the monks would be able to focus on the last meal of Jesus while they were eating.
The mural is huge and covers an entire In fact, it is the largest picture that Leonardo ever painted. The painting is laid out in such a way that it looks like Jesus and his apostles were sitting at the end of the dining hall. The disciples are all reacting horror to the thought that someone at that table would betray their master. The painting is remarkable because the disciples are all portraying very human, easily identifiable emotions.
You can see that every single element of the painting directs one’s attention straight to the midpoint of the composition which is Jesus Christ’s head. In this work, Leonardo wanted to experiment with a new style he had invented called tempera. It is a method of painting with pigments dispersed in an emulsion miscible with water, typically egg yolk. The painting took him four years to complete – 1495 to 1498.
Unfortunately, Leonardo’s new experiment was a disaster. The paint almost immediately began falling off the plaster. Art experts tried to recreate what they thought the painting must have looked like. There is a lot of debate about whether those experts really did ‘fix’ the painting, or if they changed its meaning by making changes in color and detail.
Michelangelo – Creator of Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. He was one of the most important artists of the Renaissance. At age 23, Michelangelo completed his magnificent ‘Pieta’, a marble statue that shows the Virgin Mary grieving over the dead Jesus. He began work on the colossal fig u re of ‘David’ in 1501, and by 1504, the sculpture was in place outside the Palazzo Vecchio.
After finishing his most famous project, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he later painted ‘The Last Judgment’ on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. Towards the end of his life, Michelangelo became more involved in architecture and poetry. In 1546, he was made chief architect of the partly finished St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Michelangelo’s art was a culmination of the knowledge and revival of the classics during the Renaissance, and his work was the launching point of a new style of art which became known as ‘Mannerism’.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings (see picture to the right) by Michelangelo were commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 and were completed in 1512. It was arduous work that required the artist to constantly paint while lying on his back, atop a scaffold that raised him to within inches of the ceiling. The paintings took four years to finish, and it was physically, artistically, and emotionally a tremendous feat by the artist, who created this masterpiece single-handedly.
The painting covers 520 square meters of the ceiling, and the central area is made up of nine panels showing scenes from the Old Testament. These panels are surrounded by fig u res from Greek mythology and Hebrew prophets. To this day, these ceiling paintings continue to inspire millions of pilgrims and tourists in Vatican City each year.
Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto
Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto is best known for his monumental and dramatic religious art. The artist was born in Venice and lived there all his life. Even though his painting is distinguished by great daring, he seems to have led a rather retired life, concerned only with his work, and the well-being of his family.
Tintoretto’s most notable works include the early ‘St Mark Freeing the Slave’, as well as the series of religious paintings he completed for the Scuola di San Rocco between 1564 and 1588. His last picture of considerable importance was the vast ‘Paradise’. It was reputed to be the largest painting ever done upon canvas.
He also painted ‘The Last Supper’, which is dramatically different from that which was painted by da Vinci. Tintoretto’s early works adhered quite strictly to the Mannerist tradition of the Venetian or Italian Renaissance. However, he later developed his own style that was highly dynamic and extravagant.
Raphael – Leader of the Italian Renaissance
Raphael had great talent, and he received early training in art from his father, Giovanni Santi. He also learned new techniques from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Beauty and serenity were his great emotional themes. Raphael painted the Madonna del Granduca, The Small Cowper Madonna, and The Alba Madonna.
He painted Stanza Dell’incendio and four large-scale paintings which were Marriage of the Virgin, Sposalizio, The Crucified Christ with Virgin Mary, and Saints and Angels. Raphael was a classical perfectionist, and he was thought to be one of the most detailed painters of all portraitists. He was known as a leader of the Renaissance, for he made people think of personality when they looked at his paintings into which he put realistic emotions.
Titian – Master Painter
Titian was the leader of the 16th-century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance. He was recognized early in his own lifetime as a supremely great painter. His work is characterized by pure colors and idealized beauty in nature and humans.
Titian was equally adept with portraits and landscapes, mythological, and religious subjects. What makes him a master painter is his deep interest in color. Titian’s most important innovations were made in portraiture, with his search and penetration in human character. Titian also transformed the art of oil painting with new techniques that changed the way that Renaissance artists used paints.
His work gradually became very free, and he seemed to paint from pure emotion. He felt as if nothing ever needed to be over-deliberated, and anything could be painted over until the artist felt satisfied. This mindset, along with his masterful techniques, made Titian an inspiration to the young artists of his own day and influenced the great masters of the next century.
Sofonisba was one of the first women to gain an international reputation as a painter. Sola made history when she went to study painting under the renowned artist Campi because, at that time, women were not generally accepted into painter’s studios. She concentrated on portraits, and her style was unique, and therefore historically significant. She did away with the rigid artificiality of the times and captured emotion in her portraits. Many of her self portraits convey her own refined character.
In the 1550s, Sophonisba joined the Spanish court as a lady in waiting to the Queen. There she produced some of her most exquisite works, full of intricate and delicate fabrics, fabulous jewelry, and furs. Her greatest contribution was that she opened the art world up to women painters. She was undoubtedly the most successful woman painter of the Spanish Golden Age.
Caravaggio was probably the most revolutionary artist of his time. An Italian painter, he abandoned the rules that had guided a century of artists before him. His religious paintings were realistic and dramatic, not idealized forms of men and gods. The models chosen for saints were real peasants with wrinkled faces and dirty feet, not beautiful, aristocratic-looking men and women. This greatly upset traditional society and Caravaggio came in for a lot of criticism.
Few artists in history have exercised as extraordinary an influence as this tempestuous and short-lived painter. Caravaggio was destined to turn a large part of European art away from the ideal viewpoint of the Renaissance to the concept that simple reality was of primary importance. He was one of the first to paint people as ordinary looking. He refused to compromise on his style, and by standing firm, he placed religious art in a new light.
Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the first women artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art. In an era when female artists were limited to portrait painting and imitative poses, she was the first woman to paint major historical and religious scenarios: Artemisia Gentileschi’s life was tragic, and it made a strong impact on her painting.
Her work became a symbolic attempt to deal with the physical, mental, and emotional traumas that she was experiencing. The heroines of her art are powerful women exacting revenge on male evildoers. Artemisia was without doubt the most important woman painter of Early Modern Europe, by virtue of the excellence of her work, the originality of her treatment of traditional subjects, and the number of her paintings that have survived.
Umberto Boccioni was the leader of the futurist movement, which embraced the present, and rejected the past. Industrialization, technology, and movement were the watchwords of futurism. Boccioni was born in Rome. When he was sixteen, he began studying art with Giacomo Balla. Balla introduced him to neoimpressionism. Tiny dots of various pure colors that became blended in the viewer’s eye were used in neo-impressionism.
Filippo Tomasso Marinetti turned Boccioni into a futurist. Boccioni believed that a sense of movement was important in art. He was the chief contributor to the theory of ‘mobile sculptures’. ‘The City Rises’ was his first major futuristic work. It showed the growth of the modern industrial city and the people living in it. In 1911, he was introduced to cubism. ‘State of Mind,’ and ‘Forces of a Street,’ are two of his important creations. Boccioni was killed in a riding accident in 1916.
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