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Botticelli

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.bau.pt/weblog/botticelli-venus-768.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was a Renaissance painter from Florence. He is famous for two paintings: “The Birth of Venus” (part of it pictured here) and the “Primavera”. Both hang in the Uffizi in Florence.

Although he was famous in his own day, he was soon outdone by Leonardo and Raphael. By 1500, when he was 55, his work already seemed old-fashioned. He was forgotten for centuries till the late 1800s when Pater, Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelites rediscovered him. He has influenced not just the pre-Raphaelites but also the Art Nouveau style of the early 1900s.

He painted for the powerful Medici family and the churches of Florence. In 1481 and 1482 he went to Rome to help paint the Sistine Chapel for the pope.

A true son of the Renaissance, he painted not just Christian themes – including many Madonnas and angels – but Greek and Roman themes too. He was one of the first.

“Primavera” means spring. The three women you see dancing in the painting are the three months of spring. The painting is set in the Garden of the Hesperides

The “Birth of Venus” was the first painting in the Christian West of a naked woman. It is based on “Venus Pudica”, a statue from ancient times – and yet his Venus is very much like his Virgin Marys.

The woman Botticelli painted as Venus is believed to be Simonetta Vespucci. You see her in the “Primavera”, “Venus and Mars” and some other paintings.

Simonetta was a beauty of her day and perhaps a lover of one of the Medicis. She is a cousin by marriage of Amerigo Vespucci, after whom America is named. She died at 23. When Botticelli finished the “Birth of Venus”, she had been dead for nine years. He asked to be laid to rest at her feet when he died. And so he was.

Botticelli’s real name was Allessandro di Mariano Filipepi. He did poorly in school, so his father sent him to a goldsmith to learn a trade. Later, however, Botticelli was sent to Fra Lippi to learn painting.

Botticelli was influenced by the philosophy of the Renaissance Neoplatonists Ficino and Poliziano. Love and Beauty and all that.

Botticelli took his art theory from Leon Battista Alberti. Like Alberti, he wanted to bring back the lost glories of Greek and Roman art.

Although the people in his paintings seem natural they are not. The neck of his Venus is too long, for example. But Botticelli was not interested in making painting “true to life”.

To Botticelli, painter and poet were brothers, not painter and scientist. People did not see this quality in him until the invention of photography changed the way they looked at art.

Botticelli was working on drawings for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, a book he loved. He never finished but we have 92 of his drawings.

Botticelli could make 50 to 100 florins (100 to 200 crowns) a painting. His best years were from 1475 to 1495.

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the painter of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. He was one of the greatest painters of the Renaissance. He was also an inventor and a man of science, as we know from his marvellous notebooks. He is the definition of genius. Although his art made him famous, it was his military inventions that made him the most money.

Until the French Revolution in 1789, his most famous painting was the Last Supper: the Mona Lisa was the private possession of the king of France. It was not until the overthrow of the king that the Mona Lisa became well known.

Although we have seen the Mona Lisa countless times in countless ways, somehow it still has a pull on us. It was certainly the painting that Leonardo liked best: he took it with him everywhere and kept working on till the end of his life.

He learned to paint from Verrocchio, who taught him to observe closely and think about the underlying structure. This became the foundation not only of his painting but also his science.

We take this sort of thinking for granted now, but up until his time men got their science from old books and painted nature the way they thought of it, not the way it really looked. So, while both Leonardo and Botticelli knew how to paint a woman, Botticelli’s trees look man-made.

And Leonardo’s eye was quick: he drew pictures of birds in flight that we did not know were right till centuries later when we slowed down films of flying birds.

Leonardo’s mind was very fertile, maybe too fertile:

  • He found it difficult to finish what he started.The Last Supper took him years to finish. Two of his greatest works were never finished.
  • He invented new ways of painting but used them before they were proven.This led to the ruin of his Battle of Anghiari, which might have turned out to be his greatest work. It is also why the Last Supper has not held up over the years.

Throughout his life he kept notebooks. He carried them everywhere. In them he drew and wrote about his ideas, observations, inventions and paintings.

He had a vast curiosity. He wanted to know the secrets of nature. Why does the wind blow? How is the human body made? How do birds fly? He was especially interested in water, wind, the earth, shadows, plants, animals and the human body.

Leonardo wanted to learn how to fly. He watched birds endlessly to figure out how they did it. He finally made wings for himself. They were enough to keep him in the air for a bit, but not enough to fly.

Even though a lot of his paintings were religious (the Church had money), he was not all that religious himself. He doubted Noah’s Flood and had a low opinion of the Church. But in his final years he became more serious about religion.

– Abagond, 2006.

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