argument top image

To what extent did the Italian Renaissance change Europe?
Back to question

The rediscovery of antiquity transformed European art in technique

Classical art heavily influenced artists during the Renaissance, causing a drastic shift in style from the Medieval era.
< (2 of 2)


Medieval art was influenced by the Byzantine style, which was quite colorful and had intricate designs. In paintings specifically, the subjects were two-dimensional and lacked emotional expression. The revival of classical art changed European painting techniques (as well as sculpture).

The Argument

Classical paintings and sculptures told a story and the expressions of the figures being depicted were full of emotion. The Laocoon, dated between 42-20 BC, is a great example of this emotive expression and it was a huge inspiration for Renaissance artists, Michelangelo being one of them. They were inspired by and influenced by the emotional capture of a moment and its depiction of movement and symmetry. [1] Renaissance artists wanted to show true beauty in the human form and to do so, there was a particular focus on correct proportions of the body and a detailed study of anatomy. The human body, after all, was considered God’s image. To show the divine creation in a natural way, Renaissance artists depended on precise proportions. Some artists depicted the nude form in order to do this, in painting as well as sculpture. This was influenced by the Classical paganism of Greco-Roman art. The use of perspective was also important in naturalism—which is a term to identify a type of art that portrays things as they are with exact detail. Renaissance artists applied mathematical law to their paintings and sculptures to make their subjects appear three-dimensional, rather than flat and two-dimensional. Specifically, one technique to do this is foreshortening which John Merriman defines as “proportionally contract[ing] depth so as to give the viewer the illusion of projection or extension into a space.”[2] Renaissance artists wished to capture the same perfection and harmony that classical art had.

Counter arguments

The Renaissance overshadows the Middle Ages and many believe that art in the Middle Ages was barbaric, dim, or some assume there just wasn't that much art being made. This is not true. Medieval art was vibrant, colorful, ornate, and full of detail. Art was also not just paintings, but in books as illustrations or in metalwork, stained glass, and embroidery. Medieval art was also inspired by the Roman empire but this is often downplayed or overlooked to continue the myth that the Dark Ages were a time when classical influence had disappeared.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Thursday, 27 Aug 2020 at 23:43 UTC

Explore related arguments