Yuzhu Wang, Staff Writer
In today’s society, our modern idea of arts and culture can seem worlds away from their classical definitions. Many would say that we’ve lost our roots, and forgotten the history that brought us to this point in our creativity. But the influence of the past is everywhere in today’s art and music, and one of the most notable periods of influence is that of the Renaissance.
The word “renaissance” (rebirth) refers not only to the sudden and widespread flourishing of literature and arts in fifteenth century Italy, but also the revival of antique culture as a vital force of the time. Their antiquarian curiosity became a source of potent creativity, inspiring artists with a desire to emulate the achievements of the past.
This period in history marks the emergence of the spirit of individuality, which had been stifled during the Middle Ages. Artist began to reinterpret the world around them — the architect’s world of space and stone, the painter’s world of images, the musician’s world of sound — in new ways to meet their ambitions. Enlightened thinkers of the time based their theories upon their beliefs in free will and the expression of the imagination of humans.
Famous for a wide range of accomplishments within diverse fields and practices, Leonardo da Vinci was considered a brilliant inventor, scientist, philosopher, engineer and early medical researcher. But he was first and foremost a master painter, whose work is an excellent example of Italian Renaissance concepts, techniques, and typical subject material of the 15th and 16th century. Unlike other Renaissance painters, da Vinci concentrated on religious or semi-religious iconography for his themes. Aside from the illusions of ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Mona Lisa’, da Vinci experimented with perspective to create unforgettable impressions of people and places.
Straddling the musical eras of the Renaissance and the Baroque period, Claudio Monteverdi became the first composer to develop opera to its full dramatic and musical potential. He expressed the awe of nature in art and language, and the experience of the sublime through a connection with nature. His opera ‘The Coronation of Poppea’ exemplifies his beliefs on the rationalization of nature, and the legitimacy of individual imagination as a critical authority. Monteverdi’s revolutionary innovations have influenced 20th century composers like Igor Stravinsky, while foreshadowing the modern idea of the song.
While some may deem such Renaissance artists tame in their total effect on our society’s modern sensibilities, their development of techniques that immersed the viewer in the world of the arts was revolutionary. And the impact of those techniques, still used today, cannot be understated.