One of the great things about Renaissance art is that each artistic master had a distinctive style. Each one brought to their art a different perspective of the world, a different artistic mission, and a different personality. The four greatest art masters of the High Renaissance were Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titan.
Leondardo genius lied in his amazing mind. He was proficient not only in a variety of art forms, but also in math and sciences. He was a student of nature, and took great care to capture nature in its purest form. He studied anatomy of both humans and animals, and used these studies to create figures in his paintings that seemed to breathe life. In addition to his observations of living forms, he also liked to experiment with mechanics. His understanding of motion and mechanisms also aided in the creation of realistic and logical portrayals on canvas and plaster. His understanding of mathematics also influenced the design of his works, as he used intricate mathematical calculations and layouts to create near perfect perspective in his paintings. One of the trademark characteristics of Leonardo’s works is his use of softening effects to create smoky edges instead of sharp edges. Also he is known for his use of eyelid position and facial expression to illustrate emotion. Of course the most famous of Leonardo’s work is the Mona Lisa. (Rabb and Marshall, 1993, pp.210-211).
Raphael’s paintings also used perspective masterfully. He, however, used ancient techniques to create his masterpieces. His compositions were characteristically balanced, harmonious, beautiful, and maintained a feeling of serenity. (Rabb and Marshall, 1993, p. 210). His Madonnas illustrate these characteristics to their greatest effect. While Leonardo strived to incorporate new innovations and science, Raphael’s work honored the ancient world, as seen in his tribute to the ancient world The School of Athens. (p. 211).
Michelangelo was a master of many fields: poetry, architecture, painting, and sculpture. While he was equally skilled in painting he preferred the physical nature of sculpture. Michelangelo did not share Raphael’s comfort in serenity, he preferred the masculine nature he was blessed with, aggressive, strong, and full of creative energy. (Rabb and Marshall, 1993, pp.211-213)His work deserved to contain nothing less. His tendencies towards physicality are seen in his works that depict characters of strength and energy. These characteristics can be seen in Michelangelo’s David and Adam.
Titian rounds out this group of artistic geniuses. He was a “contemporary of Michelangelo” however their styles varied greatly form one another. Where Michelangelo’s works echoed masculinity and strength, Titian’s works echoed sensuality and richness. Titian is especially known for his use of rich colors and lavish textures. Like other artists of the time, Titian excelled in nudes, and used these figures to express sensual themes. One such painting is Bacchanal. (Rabb and Marshall, 1993, p. 215). This painting depicts uses realism to depict the different stages of life, especially the development of sexuality.
All of the artists of these Renaissance masters created something that inspired the world. Their art remains popular and valuable even to this day, further demonstrating their abilities as artists, culturalists, and historians.
Durant, Will. (1953). The Renaissance: A History of Civilization in Italy from 1304-1576 A.D. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Rabb, Theodore. (1975). The Struggle for Stability in Early Modern Europe. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rabb, Theodore K. & Marshall, Sherrin. (1993). Origins of the Modern West: Essays and Sources in Renaissance & Early Modern European History. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.