First thoughts and ideas on Part 3 – 15th – 17th century

This is my second attempt at reading and doing this assignment as my first was done during a period of great personal stress and basically my notes were hideous, incoherent and useless so I have started from scratch again  – I wasn’t sure during those months whether I would have to take a break  and put my studies on hold or whether I would even be able to continue them but happily my situation resolved and here I am sat typing.

I will be the first to admit the period of history Part 3 of History of Art covers i.e. 15th, 16th and 17th centuries are probably my least favourite except for an interest in the wives of Henry VIII and also Elizabeth I.  I have loved the tapestries and textiles of the period and am interested in the overall history of those two monarchs but anything else I put my hand up and say ‘forget it’!  The reason I mention this is that this has clearly given me a bias against the art of the same period – my first glances have not been inspiring as I find the paintings dark and just not my taste.

However two things have raised my interest – one was a small video on Flemish tapestries of the period and the other a documentary on Artemisia Gentileschi.  The latter has now become the subject of my final 200o word essay  because of said documentary!!

So my reading today has just been reviewing the notes from my last tutor feedback on note taking and getting an overall feel of the Renaissance period.

What strikes me first is the quest for knowledge and interest in botany, anatomy, engineering and astrology as well as a combining of classical mythology with Christian art.  Humanism I am yet to fully understand but the interest in the classical themes is interesting and it will be fascinating to do the research –  classical ideas which were revealed to the very educated but kept almost secret from those less educated is to a modern person in some ways very shocking as art is available to all now but you also realise this was simply the way society was at the time.

I am also fascinated by the different forms of art and the different techniques – the frescoes that still exist that are still so beautiful today; tempera which I am understanding through the textiles part of this degree course (I have just been reading articles on water colours and understanding the different pigments available today); the different perspectives of linear and aerial that would have seemed revolutionary in art at the time but are now an accepted part of learning to paint or draw now; allegory where characters or events are used as a narrative for abstract ideas or principles; and finally what is very pertinent to my textiles studies – the Florentine ‘line’ and the contrast with colour.

The Florentine ‘line’ I am fascinated in because of just finishing a section on colour in my concurrent course and am definitely doing some research into what exactly it meant.  In short from one brief bit of research tells me it is the fact that drawings themselves became an independent activity instead of just as part of the design process – instead of the sketching being part of the painting the sketching developed into a fully finished drawing.  I once read a lovely quote ‘a line is a dot that ran away’ (author unknown) and ‘line’ is crucial to sketching and painting in any format so the arguments/debates between line and colour that reverberated for centuries are understandable – for some a finished piece of art is only so if it is ‘coloured in’ but for others art is best seen as a finished drawing (for me the latter has a rawness or honesty that is lost when colour is added despite me being a lover of colour!).

Overall the period of Renaissance art seems to be one of great change and thirst for knowledge and also interplay of mythology and Christianity that I have missed seeing due to lack of knowledge – oh how that is about to change!


Course material

The J. Paul Getty Museum. 2010. ‘From Line to Light: Renaissance Drawing in Florence and Venice’. [online] [Accessed January 2016]. Available from:


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