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To what extent did the context and achievements of the Northern Renaissance differ from those of the Italian Renaissance?

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To what extent did the context and achievements of the Northern Renaissance differ from those of the Italian Renaissance? The Northern Renaissance developed about 100 years after the Italian Renaissance and will therefore show some similar characteristics. This is partly due to creative adaptation, as the achievements of the Italian Renaissance were not simply plagiarised by the Northern Renaissance, but adapted and reformed to suit their own needs and context. Artists in Flanders, Holland and West Germany began experimenting with new techniques and themes with the same humanistic enthusiasm as their Italian counterparts. The art of the Northern Renaissance however had distinct differences that developed around the use of oil paints and shading that made their work individual. This is an example of how a prominent similarity encompasses many differences between the two Renaissances. Contextually the Northern and Italian Renaissance share some common factors, one being that both flourished in the most urbanized areas of Europe. Bruges had a thriving cloth making industry that was reflected in the intricately painted cloths in such paintings as Madonna with Canon George Van der Paele, and shows these prosperous cities were celebrated by their inhabitants. This urbanization came about due to the prosperous economic conditions at the time of both Renaissances. It was an important factor as it allowed a flow of investment into art and other cultural pursuits. The trades people, artisans and workers played an important role in both renaissances by creating the consumer boom in culture. ...read more.


Paintings of the Italian Renaissance were relatively calmer and were not such vivid depictions of suffering. In both Renaissances the search was greater realism was equal as the artists sought to depict true representations of what they saw. The figure of St George by Donatello shows how realism could be portrayed in a light fresh way. By contrast Donatello shows it is possible to also produce the viciously realistic with his relief of, "Herod's Feast," at Siena Cathedral. This is a marked difference from the dainty and delicate artwork of the Middle Ages, which was ordered and sterilized such gruesome passages. The realism is almost sadistic, showing the executioner kneeling before a horrified Herod, his evil wife is shown rationalizing the murder. The greater realism employed in the Italian Renaissance can also be seen in art of the north and especially in sculptures such as the, "Well of Moses." Carved by Claus Sluter the realism is intense as each of the faces is completely individual, life like and powerfully expressive. Each Renaissance however took on it's own definition of real. In Italy artists used the ideal of beauty past on from the classics while further north artists used portraits of real people to gain that sense of realism. The intense realism of Claus Sluter's, "Well of Moses," came from the real life portraits of people, which he took while focusing on the study of a powerful, expressive realism. ...read more.


This consumerism and rising prosperity meant patronage could now also come from the urban middle classes as well as from merchants and guilds, which was a factor of both Renaissances. On the other hand the North had a separate source of patronage from the monarchy that led to courtly patronage. In Italy there are classical and republican influences, this is celebrated in art like Botticeli's, "Birth of Venus," with her classical curvaceous figure. Realism, dimension and shadow are the joint achievements of the Renaissances. They sought to create a realistic vision that can be seen in a variety of art from north to south. In the, "School of Athens." Raphael combines proportion and perspective to give an Italian Renaissance definition of realism whilst Van Eyck uses a mass of detail for a northern example. In the south art had a more calmer outset that stemmed from painting with water based paints on walls, instead of using oil paints on wood as they did inm the north that meant their paintings were often richer and stronger in colour. Even though there are many differences it would be unreasonable to go as far as some art historians and say that what occurred in the north was totally separate from the Renaissance and call it International Gothic. As there are distinct similarities, that may be lesser, but do suggest they did not happen in isolation and at some point north and south did meet as Albrecht Durer shows in, "Adam and Eve," by combining a northern subject matter and the Italian style of realism. ...read more.

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