Classical Oil Paintings
The Renaissance is said by many to be the golden age of painting. Roughly spanning the 14th through the mid 17th century. In Italy artists like Paolo Uccello, Fra Angelico, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Filippo Lippi, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, and Titian took painting to a higher level through the use of perspective, the study of human anatomy and proportion, and through their development of an unprecedented refinement in drawing and painting techniques.
Flemish, Dutch and German painters of the Renaissance such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Matthias Grünewald, Hieronymous Bosch, and Pieter Brueghel represent a different approach from their Italian colleagues, one that is more realistic and less idealized. The adoption of oil painting whose invention was traditionally, but erroneously, credited to Jan Van Eyck, (an important transitional figure who bridges painting in the Middle Ages with painting of the early Renaissance), made possible a new verisimilitude in depicting reality. Unlike the Italians whose work drew heavily from the art of ancient Greece and Rome, the northerners retained a stylistic residue of the sculpture and illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. These tendencies are also see in the art of Tudor England, which was heavily influenced by Protestant refugees from the Low Countries.
Renaissance painting reflects the revolution of ideas and science (astronomy, geography) that occur in this period, the Reformation, and the invention of the printing press. Dürer, considered one of the greatest of printmakers, states that painters are not mere artisans but thinkers as well. With the development of easel painting in the Renaissance, painting gained independence from architecture. Following centuries dominated by religious imagery, secular subject matter slowly returned to Western painting. Artists included visions of the world around them, or the products of their own imaginations in their paintings. Those who could afford the expense could become patrons and commission portraits of themselves or their family.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, panel paintings which could be hung on walls and moved around at will, became increasingly popular for both churches and private houses, rather than fresco wall-paintings or paintings incorporated into on permanent structures, such as altarpieces. The High Renaissance gave rise to a stylized art known as Mannerism. In place of the balanced compositions and rational approach to perspective that characterized art at the dawn of the sixteenth century, the Mannerists sought instability, artifice, and doubt. The unperturbed faces and gestures of Piero della Francesca and the calm Virgins of Raphael are replaced by the troubled expressions of Pontormo and the emotional intensity of El Greco.