Art History


A Guide to Renaissance Painters and Their Works

The Renaissance is often defined in terms of the political, economic, and social changes that occurred throughout Western Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. The emergence of the New Monarchs, the growth of the wealthy merchant class in port nations such as Italy, the humanist movement, the re-examination of Greek and Roman culture, and the ensuing desire to find scientific explanations for the natural world were all prominent aspects of this period of rebirth. Renaissance art, when viewed through a historical lens, provides evidence for the impact these characteristics had on society. The increase in private wealth and the growing popularity of art gave Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael the opportunity to express themselves more freely than their predecessors and rise to fame not only during their lifetimes but also throughout history.

Early Renaissance Artists: Florence, Italy (1400-90s)

Considering the number of artists who hailed from Florence during this time, along with the power and wealth of the Medici family, it is unsurprising that some historians call this city the capital of the Early Renaissance.

Renaissance Artists


Tommaso Cassai, known as Masaccio (1401-27), is a Florentine remembered for his use of scientific proportions to create increasingly realistic paintings of human figures. This rebirth of the Greco-Roman emphasis on measured proportions was a change from Gothic roundness and embellishment. Masaccio's paintings include The Madonna With St. Anne, Tribute Money, and Expulsion From Paradise, frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine.

Masaccio's Biography



Domenico Ghirlandaio(1449-94) also brought realism to painting. While Ghirlandaio did paint a large number of beautiful frescoes, such as The Life of St John the Baptist and The Adoration of the Magi, his portraits depicting mundane life are true reflections of humanism in art. Old Man With a Young Boy shows humanity's flaws rather than the perfection of Biblical figures commissioned by the church.

Domenico Ghirlandaio: Saint Christopher and the Infant Christ

A Gallery of Domenico Ghirlandaio's Works


Sandro Botticelli (1444?-1510) was a Florentine painter who received greater acclaim in death than life. Botticelli's most famous paintings, Primavera and The Birth of Venus, are reflective of the humanist and Greco-Roman style of Renaissance art. These paintings' depictions of classical gods partaking in acts of human-like celebration make Botticelli's work highly symbolic of Renaissance art history.

Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli and the Search for the Divine

High Renaissance Art (1490s-1527)

The strength of the papacy during this time along with the amount of master artists for instruction and hire made Rome the destination for art during the High Renaissance.

The High Renaissance Art Style

Renaissance Art

Leonardo da Vinci

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was a talented artist known for his use of the human figure in sculptures, sketches, and paintings. His most famous paintings include the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Last Judgement fresco, and The Battle of Cascina, all of which show the Greco-Roman influences of the time and are praised for their attention to detail in regard to human proportion.

Leonardo da Vinci: Biography

Leonardo da Vinci's Painting Techniques


Referred to as the quintessential "Renaissance man," Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of the most recognizable men in art history. While Leonardo's inventions, writings, and architectural designs are certainly impressive, his famous paintings are iconic. The Last Supper fresco, Mona Lisa, and The Virgin of the Rocks illustrate his masterful grasp of light and shadow and human proportions. His ability to observe nature and use the golden ratio in his paintings made them realistic and recognizable as part of the Renaissance cannon.

Michelangelo's Biography

About Michelangelo


Like the rest of the High Renaissance artists, RaffaelloSanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), known as Raphael, is remembered in the fine art world for his vivid, colorful depictions of optimistic humanity. School of Athens places Raphael's contemporaries next to classical figures from Greek history. The humanist mindset that the Renaissance artists will be remembered for their accomplishments, like their famous predecessors were, can be seen in this decision. Other famous paintings by Raphael include The Virgin and Child, The Marriage of the Virgin, and Sistine Madonna.

Raphael's Biography

A Gallery of Raphael's Work

The Venetian School of Art

The Venetian School of Art was the closest to the Northern Early Renaissance style of all of the prominent Italian art movements. The Venetian School focused on the use of oil paint to create lifelike paintings reflective of the beauty of life and the newfound optimism under the humanist movement.

The Venetian School


TizianoVecellio (1477?-1576), or Titian, was born near Venice and moved to the city to study under the influences of Gentile Bellini and Giovanni Bellini, the latter of which had a greater impact on Titian's artistic style. Titian is recognized today for his ability to portray great depths of human emotion in his work, whether frescoes or portraits, a valuable asset in the increasing realism and humanist portrayal seen in Renaissance art. Venus of Urbino, Tarquin and Lucretia, and The Rape of Europa are some examples of the depth of emotion Titian was able to portray in his paintings.

Titian's Biography

A Collection of Titian's Paintings


The Venetian contemporary of Titian, Giorgio Barbarelli, Giorgio da Castelfranco, or simply Giorgione (1478-1510) is known for incorporating color that made the painting's background as important as its foreground, while still maintaining a central focus on the subject. While there are inconsistencies as to which famous works are his and which are works of his studio, three notable paintings attributed to him are the Tempest, The Three Philosophers, and The Venus Sleeping.

Lost Art: The Fondacodei Tedeschi frescoes by Titian and Giorgione

Northern Renaissance Art

Historians created the term "Northern Renaissance" to distinguish the changes occurring in the Flanders region during the Renaissance period from those in Italy.Flemish painters strove to render images as lifelike as possible, with greater emphasis placed on minute details and bold colors. The technique of layering oil paint on canvas helped accomplish this effect.

The Northern Renaissance and its Artistic Characteristics

Jan Van Eyck

Born near Maaseik, Belgium, Jan Van Eyck (1390?-1441) had relatively few paintings attributed to him and achieved little fame during his lifetime. However, the techniques used in his religious commissions and portraits of nobles, such as The Arnolfini Portrait and The Madonna With Chancellor Rolin, were copied or shared by other artists, specifically his choice of medium and focus on realism in portraiture, a contrast to the former Gothic period's depictions of less scientifically accurate human forms.

Jan Van Eyck's Biography

Jan Van Eyck's Famous Oil Paintings: The Madonna With Chancellor Rolin and The Arnolfini Portrait

Hans Holbein the Younger and Rogier van der Weyden

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497?-1543) and Rogier van der Weyden (1399?-1464) are less well-known Northern Renaissance artists, but the similarities between their works and those of Van Eyck cannot be ignored. Hans Holbein the Younger was a painter and designer whose attention to detail and prolific portraiture (Portrait of Henry VIII of England, Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam Writing, and Portrait of Sir Thomas Moore) rivaled those of Van Eyck. Van der Weyden's influential works include The Descent From the Cross, the Miraflores Altarpiece, and Christ on the Cross With the Virgin and Saint John, as well as other portraits with emotional depictions and realistic qualities that reinforced the new era of artistic standards.

Hans Holbein the Younger's Biography

Rogier van der Weyden's Life and Works

Rogier van der Weyden's Famous Paintings

Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was a painter and printer who used woodcuts to reproduce and easily distribute art in the late 1490s. Durer's woodcuts proved to be a more lucrative business than his own painting, demonstrating the rising influence of the printing press during the Renaissance. Several woodcuts featured portraits of men such as Desiderius Erasmus, enabling famous faces to spread throughout Europe on a more ubiquitous scale than ever before.

Albrecht Durer Biography

Albrecht Durer's Woodcuts and Sketches

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Onessimo Fine Art Gallery
Onessimo Fine Art Gallery

Onessimo Fine Art Gallery
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