The Renaissance (meaning rebirth) was a movement that took place across Europe during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. It was characterized by an interest in nature, greater focus on individualism, interest in the world and concepts that had been taken for granted until then, as well as a greater emphasis on classical learning.
Early renaissance paintings or Renaissance art was created in conjunction with late medieval art. This is because the Renaissance did not spring up overnight. Historians suggest that the late medieval period was also characterized by a greater interest in nature, increased individualism and a revival of classical learning. As time continued to pass, the emphasis placed on such concepts simply became greater.
Renaissance art consists mainly of paintings, sculptures and architecture. Renaissance artists painted a wide variety of themes, with religious altarpieces, fresco cycles and small works for private devotion being amongst the most popular. One of the most common sources of inspiration for Renaissance artists was Jacobus de Voragine’s “Golden Legend” from 1260, a source book on the lives of saints that had already become a strong influence on medieval artists.
Some of the most common techniques used by Renaissance artists included the use of proportion, shortening of lines and blurring or softening of sharp outlines by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another through the use of thin glazes (also known as sfumato) to create the illusion of depth and the use of a strong contrast between light and dark to provide a three-dimensional feeling on a two dimensional canvas.
There are several Renaissance artists who are still considered amongst the pre-eminent names in the field of art and are revered for their contributions to the field, both in terms of individual works and in terms of concepts that they pioneered, such as Fra Angelico, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Hans Holbein, Sandro Boticelli, Piero Della Francesca and Jan Van Eyck.
Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early Modern age.