El Greco, or The Greek, was the nickname adopted by Spanish Renaissance artist Domenikos Theotokopoulos. In 1563, at the age of twenty-two, El Greco had been described as maestro (master) Domenigo and probably ran his own workplace. He would have trained as a painter of icons at the Cretan Renaissance which thrived from the 15th to the 17th century. El Greco is viewed as the most successful graduate to create an art career in Western Europe in the Cretan style. His style is viewed as unique in the art world, with his elongated figures and combination of Byzantine and Western conventions. His work is sometimes described as pre-dating both Expressionism and Cubism.
Fra’ Filippo Lippi was sent with one of his brothers to the Carmelite convent at Santa Maria del Carmine. It was here that he was inspired to create art, by watching the artist Masaccio creating frescoes in the convent. Lippo went on to paint his own frescoes in the church and the cloister. Instead of studying, he spent all his time scrawling pictures on his own books and those of others. The priory recognised his talent and allowed him to pursue his artistic interest. He was a rogue, being featured regularly on court rolls for charges including embezzlement and forgery, which he attempted in order to rescue himself from regular financial predicaments.
Pietro Perugino was born Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci. He came to be known as Il Perugino, the man from Perugia. In 1500, he was known as ‘the best master in Italy’. He was one of the first Italian artists to make use of oils, used in frescoes he created for the convent of the Ingessati. Perugino was also noteworthy for his portraits. His star pupil was Raphael. Their work was very similar, but the student eventually outshone the master. Later in life, Perugino had been laughed out of Florence as his style had become stale and repetitive. He returned to Perugia, where he continued to work. Despite a lifetime of painting religious images, he was a non-believer.
Luca Signorelli, also known as Luca da Cortona, was probably born sometime between 1445-1450. Although little information is available on his private life, he is reputed to have been a family man, living relatively comfortably. Signorelli was renowned for his use of foreshortening and his aptitude as a draughtsman. His nudes and enormous frescoes also set him aside as an artist of great skill. Michelangelo is said to have used some of these figures for his work on the Sistine Chapel wall. His work, the Last Judgement, is considered to be his greatest accomplishment. Its spectacular composition is regarded as being one of the most important of Italian Renaissance art.
Modern art refers to works of art produced roughly from 1850 to 1970. The term is often used ambiguously to refer to artwork created after the said period. After all, the term modern is used to refer to the current time. One could say that modern art is the art of change. It was born in an era that saw the dawn of industrialisation that created a wave of change, affecting everything. Modern artists’ techniques adapted with the changing philosophies and technological advancements that emerged in their time. They focused on and tried to capture what was happening around them, how they saw it, and how it made them feel.
Frida Kahlo is known for many things: her passion, her political activism, her numerous self-portraits, and her turbulent marriage with Diego Rivera, whose fiery temperament rivalled hers. Aside from drawing from her personal experiences, Frida’s paintings were also influenced by her Mexican heritage. Above all, Frida should be remembered for her courage to confront her pain and express it through her art. She painted her struggles in a time when any woman who expressed her pain through her art would be labelled a hysteric or even insane. Through her paintings, Frida may have helped others, artists and non-artists to confront their pain and find the courage to carry on.
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who was best known for his post-impressionistic style of painting and his use of bold colours and empathic brushwork, a highly innovative art style during his time. He is the personified image of the struggling and tortured artist. He was a relative unknown who couldn’t even sell his paintings during his lifetime. Van Gogh also suffered from mental illness his whole life, which led to his early death at his own hands. Decades after his tragic end, he is now recognised for what he truly was: an artistic genius and perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known.
Salvador Dali has been more known for his paintings, but he was also a sculptor, filmmaker and writer. Dali experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism when he attended the Fine Arts School in Madrid. On his visit to Picasso’s studio in Paris, Dali was inspired by Cubism. He also became interested in Futurism, as well as studying Freud’s psychoanalytic concepts. Dali explored these concepts and worked to find a way to alter perception and vividly reinterpret reality. His works would feature the strangest of subjects and emotionally charged themes. With his larger-than-life personality and artistic versatility, Dali was among the most famous and prolific artists of the 20th century.
Pablo Picasso remains one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 20th century. At the age of seven, he began learning how to draw and do oil paintings under the tutelage of his father. In his lifetime, Picasso created more than 50,000 pieces of art in various mediums. As his final years approached, Picasso became a dervish of creativity. He took elements from his previous styles and repurposed them into stunning pieces. His art is featured in the world’s top galleries and fetches millions at auction. Picasso had a genius for finding beauty in the most mundane objects, and his style continues to have an impact on the art scene until now.
At his young age, Claude Monet was both an artist and an entrepreneur. He would sell his charcoal drawings for 10 to 20 francs apiece. Monet learned how to use oil paints and outdoor or “en plein air” painting techniques from fellow artist Eugène Boudin. Monet’s works were among those that featured the modernisation of Paris in a unique way, with the essence of spontaneity and intuitive feeling visible on the canvas. Later in life, he focused more on the environment and atmosphere in his works while focusing less on modernity. Monet’s paintings were not only sought for locally but was quite popular in England and the United States as well.
Sandro Botticelli is the creator of probably two of the most famous paintings in the world. Botticelli was renowned for his numerous works depicting the Madonna but was also widely known for his mythological paintings. It is generally understood that he produced the under-drawings and his apprentices completed the pieces. Drawings that Botticelli himself completed were also copied by his assistants. His style was linear and thus easily imitated, which made identification of his own work extremely problematic. Although Botticelli symbolised the methodology of the Quattrocento period, he did not enhance or influence it with his own work. He had developed his own style, preferring the more Gothic approach.
Georgia O’Keeffe was recognised as one of America’s most significant artists with her works commanding high prices. She was a prolific artist who produced about 2000 pieces of art. She influenced early American modernists as a part of the Stieglitz Circle. Flowers were a consistent motif in O’Keeffe’s work. And despite her renunciation of their interpretation of her works, she was also a great influence on the artists of the feminist movement. The deterioration of her health did not mar her will to create. At seventy-three, her work featured more of rivers and clouds in the skies. O’Keeffe’s legacy included 70 years of work and contributions to American modernism’s development.
The Italian Renaissance painter known as Titian was born Tiziano Vecellio. Titian commenced his career as an independent artist in Venice in 1510. He was the first artist to utilise the paintbrush as a means of expression in itself. Titian used colour pigments that were both readily available and much rarer. He would use the pigments undiluted and emphasise contrasting colours using light. It is thought that he used his fingers, as well as a brush, to blend and apply the medium, thus creating illusions of movement and chiaroscuro effects. As a master artist, Titian was commissioned by eminent persons of the day, from relatively minor royal and state personages to monarchs.
Raphael, also known as Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, was a renowned Italian painter and architect of High Renaissance. He was popularly called The Divine One (‘Il Divino). He was renowned for the spatial geometry and perfect grace of his High Renaissance drawing and painting. He formed the traditional trinity of great masters of that era with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Quite a lot of his works are deposited in the Vatican Palace. Despite his short life, he contributed immensely to the development of art in Italy and the whole world. Raphael’s works are available and can be seen in the best art museums all over the world.
Giovanni Bellini was a Venice new beginning painter and the brain behind the Venetian School of Painting. He was acknowledged as one of the greatest and foremost Old Master of resurgence art. Giovanni lived and worked in Venice and his career lasted 65 years. He was distinguished for his groundbreaking portrayal of natural light, tender and graceful pictures and his altarpieces. His painting techniques had a great impact on his students and colleagues. He continued to be active in the works he was commissioned to do up till his 70s. These days, as when he was alive, he is generally honored for his originality, skill and essential role in taking Renaissance to Venice.
Leonardo da Vinci was an excellent Italian painter and polymath. He was considered to be one of the three great originators of High Renaissance art in Italy. Leonardo was also distinguished as a master of oil painting such as the painterly methods of using shadow to make a 3-D effect (chiaroscuro) and using glazes in slightly different tones of colour, making an almost imperceptible transition from light to dark (sfumato). These two methods are noticeable in the Mona Lisa. Aside from being one of the greatest painters of all time, he is respected and appreciated for his technological cleverness and resourcefulness. Even to this day, the interest in Leonardo and his work has never reduced.
Matisse and Fauvism were considered by 1950s scholars as precursors of Abstract Expressionism as well as of modern art. While resting at home due to appendicitis, Matisse’s mother brought him art supplies and he began painting. He set off for Paris in 1891 to pursue his dream. Matisse had an exhibit together with a group of artists known as the Fauves at the Salon d’Automne. The paintings disregarded the subject’s natural colours while expressing emotion with wild, dissonant colours. Though the Fauvist movement was short-lived, it shaped one of the directions of modern art and many Abstract Expressionists have been influenced by Matisse.
Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian painter, art theorist, and educator. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern abstract painting. He had two experiences that would greatly influence his artistic style. An exhibition of paintings by Monet inspired Kandinsky’s use of colours, while an operatic performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin sparked a synesthetic experience. Kandinsky studied and taught art in Germany, but he integrated all the various art styles that he had employed in France. Painting was very spiritual to Kandinsky. He often utilised abstract forms and colours to convey his message. Modern abstract art will not be the same without the works of Wassily Kandinsky.