Renaissance Themes and the Modern World of Art

I think it’s important to start this post by mentioning that a comparison of Renaissance art to modern art is like comparing parents and children. Renaissance art did, after all, develop many of the basic ideas of modern art, such as perspective, as well as utilizing objects of focus which are often still present today. There are differences, however. Renaissance art seems to focus more on the human as an individual, while modern art takes a broader picture or one with no humans whatsoever; instead, modern art often utilizes style of painting to get its point across. Modern art is in general more polarized than Renaissance art. Instead of subtle gestures delicately painted into a work, today’s artists make sure that they either get their point across strongly or that their work remains entirely unclear.
Renaissance art deals primarily with the natural and supernatural worlds, portraying gods and goddesses (as in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus) or humanity at a high point (as in Raphael’s School of Athens). Renaissance art often also represents human dimensions accurately; the subjects of modern art are much more abstract, often not including either humans or gods, and most modern artists choose to depict less realistic visions of our world. To me, Picasso pieces are perfect representations of both shifts in subject and shifts in style to that of surrealism and abstract art. However, in modern art, there has been a small shift back towards the objects of focus of Renaissance painters. Paintings of Greek gods have become more common in modern art than in periods before, but not to the same level as the Renaissance. In many cases, in fact, the painting of such gods are entirely intentioned to remind the viewer of Renaissance style.
You may be wondering by now, where is the Christian art? Did Christian art still exist during and after the Renaissance? In short, yes. Christian art continued to be produced in large quantities throughout Europe during the Renaissance. However, in 1453 after the Protestant Reformation, most newly Protestant countries banned the production of Christian art and burned most of what they could get their hands on; artists generally switched to more secular topics, giving us such art as Venus or The School of Athens. Catholic countries continued to produce Christian art, but this art became much more tightly controlled by the Church, greatly reducing production.
Works Cited
Grabar, . Christian iconography : a study of its origins. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1968.

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6 comments

  1. amandagowithit

    Nice post John! Really nice observations you made about the art between the Renaissance period and nowadays, but do you think since they are starting to paint gods, and etc like before they may be trying to bring the art from before back?

    • john726

      Thanks for your reply, Amanda. It’s true that a part of today’s art is dedicated to “bringing back” Renaissance themes. It’s hard to say, though, if the majority of modern art that replicates this style is purposefully attempting to utilize exclusively Renaissance themes.
      Thanks again.

  2. erinwritesagain

    Hi John,
    I like the ways you compared Renaissance art with modern art! I wonder what you mean when you say that Renaissance art dealt with natural and supernatural worlds. Doesn’t all art? I’d also like to know more about why Protestant countries started banning “christian art.” Wouldn’t protestant countries want to promote their new branches of Christianity?
    Thanks for your post!
    -Erin

    • john726

      Thanks for the good questions, Erin. Much modern art, specifically surrealist and abstract art, doesn’t concentrate on our world or a heavenly world. These art forms instead focus on worlds created within the minds of the artist, thus the name “surrealist.”
      Christian art was typically banned from Protestant countries due to its more Catholic connotations. Christian art was in general at this time connected to Catholicism.
      Thanks again.

  3. davidz123

    Hey John, it’s a really nice post! I like the way you compare the arts between the Renaissance and modern days. I’m kind of curious about the boundary between Christian arts and the Renaissance style arts, can you tell me more about it? Thanks
    -David

    • john726

      A good question, David. One of the biggest differences between Christian and Renaissance art is really in the title. Renaissance art does not need to contain Christian or religious influences and was actually very humanistic in the later stages of the Renaissance. Essentially, some Christian art is from the Renaissance and some Renaissance art is Christian, but neither category contains all Renaissance or all Christian art.
      Thanks for your reply.

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