Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Science and Humanism as it Relates to Renaissance Art

During the “High Renaissance” art took a more scientific approach. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci began to make detailed studies of human anatomy. This new knowledge allowed for a more realistic rendering of the human body that went beyond surface features and showed a real understanding of the structure as well. This scientific approach did not stop at anatomy. Advances in perspective allowed for more believable spatial relationships. Perspective was even considered with relationship to how the piece was to be viewed. If piece was to be placed up high the proportions would be very different than if placed at eye level. While many people may view art and science as almost opposites on a spectrum, there are many similarities and in many ways one can support the other. Both are in response to the natural world and both attempt to understand it. Both are also, very much, creative processes.
Humanism is also something that becomes more important during this time. No longer, in western art, is it only man’s relationship to the divine that is important. There is a renewed interest in the concerns and ideas of the Classical Greek and Roman cultures. That is not to say that religious art is no longer important. The Catholic Church is very busy trying to take back lost ground and didactic art is used as a sort of propaganda to bring their lost sheep back in the fold.
Are humanism and science still aspects of art today? Well certainly humanism is; more so than ever. As for science, it is still important, but it has changed. It is less about pure science and more about technology. With the advent of photography and the abilities of artists to render things with an almost perfect likeness, things like achieving natural perspective are no longer concerns. Today’s concerns are more about new mediums and new tools such as the computer.

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