Giotto, the world's first celebrity artist | Art and design | The Guardian
Unlike Cimabue and Giotto who were Florentine, Duccio was a exploring the psychological relationship between Mother and Child."2. Most historians view Cimabue (pronounced Chee-ma-boo-ee) as the last of the medieval masters, and his pupil Giotto (Gee-otto) as the first. Greek painters/Cimabue that forms the centre- piece of Vasari's tale. Cimabue trained Giotto, and. Vasari indicates that their relationship was partic- ularly close.
Two significant Florentine artists stand at the crossroads. Most historians view Cimabue pronounced Chee-ma-boo-ee as the last of the medieval masters, and his pupil Giotto Gee-otto as the first great Renaissance master. Cimabue lived from and was a great painter of christian art. Not much is known about his life at all, but a few of his paintings remain. There was a very specific look to art in the s. Paintings were flat with little or no depth and figures had a highly stylized look.
Many medieval painters instituted a stylized black line to outline figures, and had a limited understanding of accurate body proportion. We can see that his Christ is elongated but somewhat less stylized. Jesus even has a slight green hue to his skin. You can feel the coldness of death in the painting. Giotto broke significantly with the traditions of medieval art, painting bodies and drapery with intense shadows and a feeling of depth.
He also infused his figures with a newfound emotional depth.
A star is born
His most famous works are found in Padua in the Scrovegni Chapel fromwhere Giotto decorated the walls and with vividly colored frescos. I have inserted this later picture, so that you may see the progress Giotto made in his subsequent period of life. You see how the figures here are conceived still more as single human individuals.
In the period from which the former pictures were taken, we see the artist carried along, as it were, by the living impulses of St. Here in this picture, belonging as it does to a later period of his life, we see him coming more into his own. We will presently return to the pictures more immediately following his representations of St. Capella Madonna dell' Arena, Padua. This, too, is from his later period, showing a consideraby greater realism than before. Marriage of the Virgin. Capella Madonna dell'Arena, Padua.
Also of his later period. The Baptism of Christ. In such pictures we see how natural it was to the men of that age to express themselves in allegories. The conditions of life undergo immense changes in the course of centuries. It was a tremendous change when the life that had found expression in pictures at that time, passed over into that in which we live today, which takes its course more in thoughts and ideas communicated through the medium of books.
This was a far greater revolution than is generally realised. The desire to express oneself in allegories was especially strong in that age. It is most interesting to see how in such a case artistic realism is combined with the striving to make the whole picture like a Book of the World in which the onlooker may read.
Francis submits the Rules of his Order to the Pope. This picture is related once more the earlier art of Giotto — springing as it does from his increasing entry into the whole world of feeling of St. Beautifully we see how the artist seeks to represent the inner life of St. John, bringing forth out of his heart his inner connection with the great World.
This, then, is St. John, writing, or at least conceiving, the Apocalypse. The Raising of Lazarus. The Flight into Egypt. The Annunciation to St. The Resurrection of Christ. The Crowning with Thorns. We will insert, directly after this Madonna by Giotto, the Madonna by Cimabue which we have already seen, so that you may recognise the immense difference in the treatment of the sacred figure.
Observe — despite the obvious persistence of the old tradition — the realism of this picture, in the eyes, the mouth, and the whole conception of the Jesus child. We have before us human beings, copied from the reality of earthly life, looking out from the Earth into the World.
Compare this with Cimabue's picture, where we rather have before us an original spiritual vision traditionally handed down — where Beings gaze from realms beyond the Earth into this world. However much in the composition is reminiscent of the former picture, you will see, even in the way the lines are drawn, the immense difference between the two.
Capella Madonna dell' Arena. Once more an allegorical picture. The former was an earlier work, while this belongs to a very late period in Giotto's life. We will now insert the previous one once more so that you may see the great progression. This picture is taken from the chapel in Padua, where Giotto returned once more to the former legend. Here, then, you see how he treats a very similar subject so far as the composition is concerned, at an earlier and at a much later stage in his career.
Observe the far greater freedom, the far greater power to enter into individual details which the later picture reveals. The Feast of Herod. The Appearance in Arles. Birth and Naming of John the Baptist. Andrea da Firenze School of Giotto: Doctrine of the Church. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella.
This picture, the Church Militant, is generally associated with the School of Giotto. Here you see the rise of that compositional element which was to play so great a part in the subsequent history of painting. Quite a new inner life appears before us here. We may describe the difference somewhat as follows: If we consider the evolution of Christianity until the time of Dante and Giotto, we shall find a strong element of Platonism in its whole way of feeling.
Far be it from me to mislead you into the belief that it contained the Platonic Philosophy; but Platonism, that is to say, a feeling and conception of the world which also finds expression in the philosophy of Plato, where man looks up into a sphere beyond the Earth, and does not carry into it anything that proceeds from the human intellect. After Giotto's time a theological, Aristotelian element entered more and more into the Christian world of feeling.
Once again I do not say the philosophy of Aristotle, but a theological, Aristotelian quality. Men tried, as it were, to see and summarise the world in systematic conceptions such as you see in this picture, rising upward from a world below to a middle and thence to a higher world. Thus was the whole of life systematised through and through in an Aristotelian manner. So did the later Church conceive the life of man placed in the universal order. Past were the times from which Cimabue still rayed forth, when men's conception of a world beyond the Earth proceeded still from the old visionary life.
Now came a purely human way of feeling; yet the desire was, once more, to lead this human feeling upward to a higher life — to connect it with a higher life, only now in a more systematic, more intellectual and abstract way. And so, in place of the Earlier Art, creating as from a single centre of spiritual vision, there arose the new element of composition.
See the three tiers, rising systematically into higher worlds from that which is experienced and felt below. Observing this in the immediate followers of Giotto, you will already have a premonition, a feeling of what was destined to emerge in the later compositions. For who could fail to recognise that the same spirit which holds sway in the composition of this picture meets us again in a more highly evolved, more perfect form, in Raphael's Disputa.
Andrea da Firenza School of Giotto: See how the spiritual events and processes of earthly life are portrayed in the grouping of the human figures. It is the same artistic conception which emerges in Raphael's great picture, generally known as the 'School of Athens.
I beg you especially to observe the unique way in which the fundamental idea comes to expression here: Look at the expression of the faces. See how the artist's work is placed at the service of this grand idea: The rule of the Church raying out over the Earth. You may study every single countenance.
Wonderfully it is expressed — raying outward from the centre — how each single human being partakes in the impulse that is thought to proceed from the Church through all the souls on Earth. The physiognomies are such that we see clearly: The whole thing was done by an artist who was permeated by this idea, and was well able to bring to expression in the countenance of men what the Church Militant would, indeed, bring into them.
We see it raying forth from every single face. I beg you to observe this carefully, for in the later pictures which we shall see afterwards it does not come to expression with anything like the same power. Though the fundamental idea of the composition — expressed so beautifully here, both in the grouping of the figures and in the harmony between the grouping and the expressions of the faces — though the fundamental impulse was retained by later artists, nevertheless, as you will presently see for yourselves, it was an altogether different element that arose in their work.
Look at the dogs down here: Angelico represents these Domini Canes in many of his pictures. Here we come a stage further in artistic evolution.
The following developments may be said to have proceeded from the stream and impulse of which Giotto was the great initiator. But from this source a two-fold stream proceeded. In the one, we see the realistic impulse emancipating itself more and more from the Spiritual. In Giotto and in the last two pictures the Spiritual still enters in, everywhere; for, after all, this impulse proceeding from the Church Militant throughout the World is conceived as a spiritual thing.
Every single figure in the composition is such that we might say: Francis himself lived after all in a spiritual world albeit lovingly, realistically inclined through his soul to the earthly world around himGiotto and his pupils, with 'however loving realism they grasped the things of this world, still lived within the Spiritual and could unite it with their conception of the single individual on Earth.
But now, as we come on into the 14th and 15th century, we see the longing, faithfully to portray the individual and Natural, emancipating itself more and more. There is no longer that strong impulse to see the vision as a whole and thence derive the single figures, which impulse was there in all the former pictures, even where Giotto and his pupils went to the Biblical story for their subjects.
Now we see the single figures more and more emancipated from the all-pervading impulse which, until then, had been poured out like a magic broach ever the picture as a whole. More and more we see the human figures standing out as single characters, even where they are united in the compositions as a whole.
Look, for example, at the magnificent building here. Observe how the artist is at pains, not so much to subordinate his figures to one root-idea, as to represent in every single one a human individual, a single character. More and more we see the single human characters simply placed side by side.
Though undoubtedly there is a greatness in the composition, still we see the single individuals emancipated naturalistically from the idea that pervades the picture as a whole. Even in this Biblical picture you can see how the expressions of the several figures are emancipated from the conception as a whole. Far more than heretofore, the artist's effort is to portray even the Christ in such a way that an individual human quality comes to expression in Him.
Likewise the other figures. In this picture you can already lose the feeling of one idea pervading the whole. See, on the other hand, the wonderful expressions of the faces in Filippino Lippi's work, both in the central figure of the visionary and in the lesser figures.
In every case the Human is brought out. Thus we see the one stream, proceeding from the source to which I just referred, working its way into an ever stronger realism, till it attains the wondrous inner perfection which you have before you in this figure of St. Bernard as he receives his vision.
Here you see a wonderful progression in human feeling.
Cimabue, Santa Trinita Madonna & Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna (video) | Khan Academy
Looking at this work of Masaccio's, you can take a keen interest in every single figure, in every single head of these disciples grouped around the Christ. Look, too, how the Christ Himself is individualised. Think of the tremendous progress in characterisation, from the pictures which we saw before, to this one. Observe the transition in feeling.
Heretofore it was absorbed in the Christian cosmic conception. Now it has passed over to the renewed conception of the Roman power. Feel in this composition, in the expressions of the several figures, how the Roman concept of power is expressed. A little while ago we say the Rule of the Church Militant pouring out as a spiritual force over the whole. Here, for the most part, are highly individualised figures — men who desire power and who join together for the sake of power, while in the former case it was a spiritual light which shone through all their faces.
In the earlier pictures, each was to be understood out of the whole, while here we can but grasp the whole as a summation of the individuals, each of whom is, in a sense, a power in himself. With all the greatness of the composition — the figures grouped around the mighty one, the Christ, mighty through His pure spiritual Being, — still you can read in the expressions of these men: All this is expressed in the figures of these men.
So you see how the human and realistic element becomes more and more emancipated, while the artist's power to portray the individual increases.
The sacred legends, for example, are no longer represented for their own sake. True, they live on, but the artists use them as a mere foundation. They take their start from the familiar story, using it as an occasion to represent the human being. Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.
See how the artist's attention is directed not to the Biblical story in itself but to the question: How will human beings look when they have been through the experience of Adam and Eve?
We must admit that for his time the artist's answer is magnificent. Portrait, Framseslo Sassetti and Son. I need scarce make a comment.
With Ghirlandajo we come to a time when the faculty to portray man as man — to represent what is purely human in his life — has reached a high level of perfection. Henceforth the Last Supper is no longer merely represented as in the picture that we saw just now so that the vision of those that behold it may be kindled to an experience of the sacred action.
No; the story of the Last Supper is now taken as an opportunity to represent the human beings. Though it is not yet so much so as in some later pictures, nevertheless, we can already study here the physiognomies of the disciples one by one, observing how their human characters are working under the impression that has been kindled in their souls.
Such pictures bring home to us the immense change in the whole artistic conception. The Sermon of Anti-Christ. The same comments would apply to this picture. So, too, with the problem of the Madonna: The sacred legend lives on; and, being familiar to all, is made use of to solve problems of artistic realism and to bring out the individual and human.
In these artists, as the last pictures will illustrate, the Human impulse has already grown so strong that they no longer feel the same necessity to choose their subjects from the sacred legend. You can scarcely imagine the entry into Giotto's pictures of any other than a Christian subject. But when the Christian legend came to be no more than the occasion for the artists to portray the human being, they were presently able to emancipate the human subject from the Christian Legend.
So we see them going forward to the art of the Renaissance, growing more and more independent of Christian tradition. Descent from the Cross. Having shown a number of pictures representing the realistic stream, if so we may call it — the seizing of the Human on the Earth, liberated from the Supersensible — we now come to the second stream above-mentioned, of which Fra Angelico is one of the greatest representatives. It is, if I may so describe it, a more inward stream,a stream more of the soul.
The artistic evolution which we followed hitherto was taken hold of more by the Spirit. In Fra Angelico we see the Heart, the soul itself, seeking to penetrate into the human being.
It is interesting to see once more, in the wonderfully tender pictures of this artist, the attempt to grasp the individual and human, yet from an altogether different aspect, more out of the soul. Indeed, this lies inherent in the peculiar colourings of Fra Angelico, which, unhappily, we cannot reproduce. Here everything is felt more out of the soul, whereas the emancipation of the Human which appeared in the other realistic stream, came forth more out of the human Spirit striving to imitate the forms of Nature.
It is by the path of the soul, as it were, that the soul-content of Christianity pours in through Fra Angelico. Hence the phenomenon of Fra Angelico is so intensely interesting. Formerly, as we have seen, a supersensible and spiritual content poured through the evolution of Christianity, and took hold also of the world of Art.
Then the attention of man was turned to the world of Nature — Nature experienced by the soul of man. We have seen how the same impulses, living as a simple religious enthusiasm in St. Francis of Assisi, found artistic expression in Giotto. Henceforth, man's vision was impelled more and more to an outward naturalism.
But in face of all this realism, his inner life seeks refuge, as it were, in the soul's domain, tending, again, rather to melt away the sharper lines of individuality, but striving all the more intensely to express itself, as a life of soul, in outer form.
For the soul's life holds sway, pervading all the details in the work of Fra Angelico. It is as though the soul of Christianity took flight into these tender pictures, so widely spread abroad, though the most beautiful are undoubtedly in the Dominican Monastery at Florence. Thus while the Spirit that had once held sway in vision of the Supersensible was now expended on the vision of the Natural, the soul took refuge in this stream of Art, which strove not so much to seize the physiognomy — the Spirit that is stamped on the expressions of the human countenance and of the things of Nature — but rather to convey the life of soul, pouring outward as a living influence through all expression.
You will remember the picture of the Last Supper which we showed just now. There, everything depended on an answer to the question: How does Nature reveal the Spirit? How does Nature impress on the external features of men the signature of their experience in this event? Here, on the other hand, you see how all the characters are concentrated on a single feeling, and yet this single quality of soul finds living expression in them all.
Here is essentially a life of soul, expressed through the soul; while in the former picture it was a life of the Spirit, finding a naturalistic expression. Down to the very drawing of the lines you can see this difference. Look at the wonderful and tender flow of line. Compare it with what you will remember of the former picture of the Last Supper. Coronation of the Virgin Mary. See what a quality of soul is poured like a magic breath over this picture.
It is interesting how in Botticelli the same artistic impulse, which we found in Fra Angelico, is transferred — if I may put it so — to altogether different motives. Botticelli, in a certain respect, is most decidedly a painter of the life of soul. Yet he again emancipates, within the life of soul, the Human from the general Religious feeling which pervades the work of Fra Angelico.
He emancipates the human working once more towards a certain naturalism in the expressions of the soul. Compare this portrait with the head we saw before, by Ghirlandajo. In that case something essentially spiritual found naturalistic expression, while here we see an abundant life and content of the soul even in the drawing of the lines. Adoration of the Magi.
Coronation of the Virgin. Florence Following on Fra Angelico, we have shown a series of Botticelli's so as to gain an impression of the progress in the painting of the soul's life, in contrast to the Spirit which we found in Masaccio and Ghirlandajo. These, then, were the two directions that grew directly out of the impulses proceeding from Giotto — impulses handed down through Giotto, and through Donatello in another sphere, down to these painters. In the further course of evolution on these lines, we now come to the great Renaissance painters, of whom I still wish to show you a few pictures in this lecture.
When we have a picture like this of Botticelli's before us, we realise the extraordinary intensity of progress from the 14th to the 15th and on into the 16th century — from the portrayal of the purely Human, In such artists as Ghirlandajo we see the Spiritual, absorbed into the sphere of Nature, brought to a high level of expression. Here in this other stream we see a rich life of soul, come to expression, even in the draughtmanship.
In course of time men had attained the knowledge of the human form, with all its powers of expression.
It was as though, from the starting-point of Heaven, Earth had been conquered by mankind. That deepening of life which had come about through Christianity passed more and more into the background, and it was as though the object now were to understand man as such in a far deeper way.
The heavenly domain became a path of progress, towards the more perfect expression of the inner being of man as it stamps itself upon his outer features, and upon all that comes forth outwardly in the relationships of men to one another, in their life together. It is the conquest of the realm of Man, by the most varied paths, which comes before us here so wonderfully. And now we see the union of all these impulses in the great artists, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Let us observe a few of Leonardo's pictures. We shall find in him a synthesis of the varied strivings which came be ore us in the other pictures. For in a high degree, the Leonardo da Vinci, there is a working-together of the Spiritual with the life of the soul — in his drawing, in his composition and in his power of expression.
To begin with I have selected some sketches and drawings by Leonardo, from which you may see how he endeavoured to study man in a fully realistic way.
This, of course, was in a time when all that had been gained in the former periods was there to influence the artist. It is characteristic of Leonardo how radically he seeks to bring out the full expressiveness of man; he tries to seize the human being as a whole, and bring him forth to perfection in his drawing. He seeks to enhance his power of expression to the highest point by studying and holding fast all human needs.
This was only possible in the flower of an artistic epoch containing all the works which we have seen today — the penetration of the human being in the Spirit and in soul. More, as I said, you see united all that had formerly been striven for by separate paths. These are the heads of the Apostles from the famous fresco at Milan, — the Last Supper, which, also, is scarcely visible today, for only isolated patches of colour now remain. We see that in this great artistic epoch the sacred legend merely provided a foundation for the working-out of human characters.
Especially in his Last Supper, Leonardo is at pains to study the single human characters. We see him working very, very long at this wonderful picture, for he wanted to study the human characters in all detail.
We know how often he disappointed his clients — the dignitaries of the Church. Thus, after long labour, he had not finished Judas Iscariot, and when the Abbot, high dignitary that he was, kept pressing him to finish it at last, his answer was that hitherto, alas, he had not been able to finish it since he lacked a model for Judas Iscariot; but now the Abbot himself, if he would kindly sit for him, would provide an excellent model for the purpose.
We go on in this classical epoch. I beg you to observe this picture by Perugino, Raphael's teacher, to see how Raphael's art grew out of his predecessor's.
In Perugino a new element makes its appearance: On this, the greatness of Raphael very largely depended. Look at these two pictures: You will see the one actually growing out of the other; you will recognise how Raphael, starting from his teacher, attained his greatness, receiving the ripest fruits from the different streams which we have learned to know this evening; Raphael brings soul and Spirit into his pictures and combines them with that element of composition which came from his especial schooling.
You will remember the earlier picture of the 'Vision of St. Bernard' which we saw this evening. Consider the great difference. In the former case there was an effort to make the Spirit powerfully active in all that was brought into the picture. Here we see a pure element of composition, contriving to express what is, indeed, the chosen motif of the picture but does not penetrate it fully.
Perugino cannot yet deepen his composition so that a living soul speaks out of it. Nevertheless, we see how great a part this element of composition plays in his school of painting.
The Giving of the Keys to St. Here, then, where Raphael receive' such powerful influences, we see the entry of an element of composition. You will, of course, see how great a part it plays in Raphael. In the former pictures we cannot speak of it in the speak of it in the same way as here. The composition was, rather, the result of a totality, — a totality which the artist felt more as a living organism.
Man, too, after all, is composed; but though he is composed of head and arms and legs and so forth, we cannot really call this a 'composition'; for in man everything proceeds as from a centre, and we feel his composition — of arms and legs, of head and trunk — as a natural totality, a thing that goes without saying.
Here in this picture you not feel it as a natural totality, a thing that goes without saying. You feel it definitely, purposely composed; whereas you will find the earlier compositions flowing more out of a single whole. Here, you see, the whole is placed together; it is literally composed. Proceeding, therefore, from the 13th, 14th, 15th centuries, we recognise the one stream which seeks to conquer Nature through the Spirit, and leads on to a higher stage of realism.
Side by side with it we see another stream which seeks to conquer Nature from the aspect of the soul.
And now, coming across from Central and Eastern Italy where Raphael and his predecessors had their home, we see this power of composition, this working from the single parts towards the whole, whereas all the former streams still contained an echo of the working from the whole into the single parts, a thing that you could see most strongly, for example, in that composition representing the spiritual rule of the Church pouring out into the world, where everything was conceived out of a given unity, and nothing was built up out of the single details, as it is in this case.