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HNR 302: Science of the Art of the Renaissance

Linear Perspective Writing Artifact

Perspective is key when it comes to drawing, painting, sketching, etc. It is vital in making a piece seem to be real to any extent. Many artists used linear perspective to allow themselves to have a way to make sure that the perspective of the piece was the same as if it would be in real life. The creation of linear perspective and the material I used was crucial in understanding this type of art on a more scientific level. These two components allowed me to have a better attempt when it came to creating a piece of artwork. 

Linear perspective was invented and started being used in art at the beginning of the Renaissance in “the early 1400’s” (Gaining Perspective). It was invented by Filippo Brunelleschi, an architect,  in order to help better visualize his buildings. Linear perspective is when all lines in a piece of work converge at a singular fixed point (Gaining perspective). The fixed point is referred to as the “vanishing point” because all the lines seem to vanish when they reach this point (Invaluable). This allows the illusion of space and distance to be created on a two dimensional surface; it creates a sense of realness as if one was looking at that location with their own eyes. Many artists used this perspective: Filippo Brunelleschi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti, Donatello, and Massacio (Blumberg). Linear perspective was a key factor in Renaissance art that truly separated the era of art with ones that came before it.

In the sketch I created I used a canvas and a graphite pencil to fully make it. The graphite pencil was most likely fired from powder with an “organic matrix” such as clay or cellulose (David). These pencils have many different levels of hardness and blackness to have an understanding of how they will be written and be sketched with compared to one another (David). I used the graphite pencil because it was easier to erase any mistakes I may have made when attempting the sketches as the graphite stays on top of the canvas and does not stain it. For the canvas I used cardstock paper to create my sketch. Cardstock is made of a mix of “hardwood fibers” and “softwood fibers” to help give it its texture and strength (What is cardstock). These fibers are mixed together in water and poured over water; as it dries the water is pushed away from the wire leaving a solid sheet that becomes cardstock (What is cardstock). With my canvas being cardstock and the medium of the piece being graphite, it was a lot easier to figure out the science behind these two mediums than most paints and other materials.

Linear perspective was used by some of the greatest artists of all time during the Renaissance and now was used by a college student for the first time ever. It is a perfect mix of science and art to create amazing pieces that seem as though they could be real. It is used in both architecture and art with a wide variety of mediums to go along with it. I found this to be so interesting because of the way that it is still so commonly used in art pieces today that something from 600 years ago is still relevant today is amazing. Without linear perspective many art pieces would not be nearly as realistic or three dimensional than they currently are.

Renaissance Reflection

The Renaissance was the rebirth of many things, from philosophy, to science, and to art. Artists finally were able to stop being told by the church on what to paint, sculpt, or build; artists started making what they wanted to make and not what they were told to make. While a lot of artists still had to do commissions from wealthy families to make a living, it wasn’t the church which was the big important deal. Since the church was no longer in full control of artists, they got to explore unique techniques, and from these techniques they created the era of Renaissance art. Renaissance art was different from past eras, such as Medieval and Gothic, because of what the art pieces were about and the techniques used.

One of the main characteristics of Renaissance art was the use of perspective. On art pieces there would start to be a center that everything else was moving towards, the world of the piece became more real, as if one was looking into a world instead of at a piece of canvas with paint on it. The “vanishing point” on the painting allows for a sense of depth that had never been seen before in art. Artist Brunelleschi was considered the creator of linear perspective (Blumberg). This technique was created and popularized during the Renaissance and is still used in most paintings made today. This is a completely different technique than in the Medieval period. During this period, the perspective was flat and lacked depth. Medieval painting felt as if everything was stacked on each other instead of having space between them, and linear perspective added this space between them. Linear perspective was a defining characteristic of the Renaissance.

Another characteristic of Renaissance art was realistic proportions, especially when it came to people. Artists started drawing babies to look more similar to actual babies and people had realistic proportions instead of strange sizing. In Medieval art babies were painted as small people and there was inconsistent proportions when it came to body parts, especially when looking towards the idea of realism. There were paintings where hips seemed out of place or a leg was too long compared to what it should have been, and the Renaissance fixed this. An example of this is Leonardo’s Madonna and Child with Saint Anne. The baby Jesus is the size of an actual baby compared to the other two people in the painting. Madonna and Saint Anne in the painting have mainly realistic proportions, with the exception of Saint Anne being slightly bigger than a regular person; this is most likely because of the fact that she is a Saint. These realistic figures and proportions became a key figure of the Renaissance and helped show the differences between Renaissance art and Medieval art.

An additional characteristic of Renaissance art was its humanistic and world view focus. Artists started painting more paintings on life and the world around them instead of religious figures or devotionals. During the Gothic movement of Medieval art artists could only paint “religious figures or devotionals,” so being able to paint the world around them was a huge step for artists (Trent). Not only were artists recreating the world around them, but they started exploring science in their artwork as well; this is best seen in Leonardo’s work. Science and art had never correlated in the past due to art being so religiously focused for a long period of time that this became a defining characteristic of Renaissance art.

Between the focus of the art, linear perspective, and realism with proportions, the Renaissance became a clear and defined period of art. One that was not just a movement, for instance, how Gothic art was a  movement of Medieval art. Renaissance art was an entirely new era of art.

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