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Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction…

Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction (2005)

by Geraldine A. Johnson

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This is the seventh Oxford Very Short Introduction that I've read, and the first to disappoint me. It's not that I disagree with much that Johnson has to say, it's that the now-orthodox challenges to supposed orthodoxy seem so obvious as to be downright banal.

E.g. on Raphael's Sistine Madonna: "It is only by setting [the angels in the painting] into their original context and trying to see them through the 'period eye' of their original beholders that the non-, or better, extra-aesthetic aspects of the composition become apparent." Well, who can disagree with that? But are the extra-aesthetic aspects that she cites really that interesting? The angels "bridge the gap between this world and the next" (pretty sure I knew that already), and the "bearded figure" is "St Sixtus, patron saint of Pope Sixtus IV, the deceased uncle of the then pope, Julius II, the man probably responsible for commissioning this work for the high altar of a convent" (how fascinating?).

It seems to me that the "extra-aesthetic" context brought to bear in most of this book is most definitely "extra"—really only fascinating for people already super-invested in the aesthetic worth of the objects. So Johnson, it seems to me, fails to argue successfully what is, after all, a very conventional viewpoint now—she should be able to make this seemingly-trivial case, but for me she fails.

To be fair I think she's hobbled in her quick studies of famous works by the low-res black & white representations of the artists she's discussing, and this book would probably seem much more interesting if read side-by-side with colour reproductions that do the paintings some justice. If you plan to read this, have web access at the ready—as I was on trains and planes in Italy while reading, I didn't have that benefit. ( )
  jrcovey | May 31, 2013 |
This is an essay in viewing Renaissance art in terms of how its original users would evaluate it. It is particularly good on how art was used in Renaissance society, when it was not lodged in museums or regarded as sacrosanct. The author is very good at using examples to develop her ideas. The reproductions are inadequate, as usual in this series. Most can be found in full color on the internet however with a little googling or wikiing. This is a good sensible book but the Very Short Introduction format does not lend itself to such a wide topic. ( )
  anthonywillard | Jan 31, 2013 |
Does just what it sets out to do - provides a very short introduction to the topic. Nothing profound, but it's a good starting point. ( )
  Gwendydd | May 9, 2008 |
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To Chris, my Renaissance man.
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The year is 1768.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192803549, Paperback)

Artists like Botticelli, Holbein, Leonardo, Dürer, and Michelangelo and works such as the Last Supper fresco and the monumental marble statue of David, are familiar symbols of the Renaissance. But who were these artists, why did they produce such memorable images, and how would their original beholders have viewed these objects? Was the Renaissance only about great masters and masterpieces, or were women artists and patrons also involved? And what about the "minor" pieces that Renaissance men and women would have encountered in homes, churches and civic spaces? This Very Short Introduction answers such questions by considering both famous and lesser-known artists, patrons, and works of art within the cultural and historical context of Renaissance Europe. The volume provides a broad cultural and historical context for some of the Renaissance's most famous artists and works of art. It also explores forgotten aspects of Renaissance art, such as objects made for the home and women as artists and patrons. Considering Renaissance art produced in both Northern and Southern Europe, rather than focusing on just one region, the book introduces readers to a variety of approaches to the study of Renaissance art, from social history to formal analysis.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:46 -0400)

A concise and readable introduction to Renaissance art.-publisher description.

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