5 Tips To Make Your Guitar Mixes Rock!

Now I know there are thousands of variables involved as well as opinionated ways of doing this, that's why I'm going to tell you 5 tips I use to make my guitars stand out to help make my mixes sound huge!

1. Double Track Your Rhythm Guitars:

You can easily thicken up the sound of your mixes by doubling your guitar tracks. Yes I know this is not really a 'mixing' tip but when you use both guitars in the mix it can beef up your guitar tracks. PRO TIP: You can even play around with changing the tone slightly on the second track to add even more emphases on certain characteristics of the playing. Say you want one to be more beefy and use another for note clarity. Just one of many ways you can use that to your benefit.

2. Pan Those Tracks:

The next step is to pan those rhythm guitars you tracked. I like to start at hard panning them both, one left one right. If they are sounding too separate bring them more to the middle, 70-80 is a good area where I like to put my guitars, especially for the slower parts. Faster more intricate playing can benefit from going all the way left or right. Panning these guitars helps separate the sound and clear up the middle for other instruments (i.e. kick drum, bass guitar) that need to be there. Turn that pan knob and immediately hear the results.

3. High Pass Filter Your Guitars:

OK yes, I know this is situational depending on the tone/style of guitar you are tracking. But in most times I mix I like to roll off some of those lows to clear up the bottom section and help your guitars not 'fight' so much with the bass and kick drum. I like to start in the 100,200k area and roll it off accordingly to the mix. Let your ears do the work, roll it off as you listen to a section and when you hear the guitars start to'thin out' back off a hair and Voila! You now have cutting clear guitar.

4. Did Someone say Plug-ins?

Yes you read that correctly. But dude, I thought you are always preaching 'crap in crap out, get it right from the source and you wont have to fix anything come mix time??!' Yes you are correct. I do live by that, but remember music and mixing is an art form. There are rules, but there are not. Weird right? I like to look at using plug-in's like using salt when cooking. You don't want to add too much because it will taste bad, but using just enough will make whatever your eating taste much better! Don't be afraid to add a little compression, or tube saturation/distortion to give your tracks get a little more omph! Experiment, you might find something you really like!

5. EQ Subtraction

The last tip here is my all time favorite, and yes it does play off of tip number 3. Subtracting EQ in certain bands is an ideal way to let other instruments in your mix cut through in return making everything (including your guitar tracks) sound bigger, cleaner and overall better. Especially with high gain guitar tracks cutting some of the lower (or) higher mids out is a good way to tone it down and get your guitars working in cohesion with other primary instruments. Don't be afraid to get the scalpel out and start cutting EQ like your a mad surgeon. Just remember to do it while you are listening to your mix, never solo your guitars and start cutting that would not be pretty.

The Oath of the Horatii

The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David is both an excellent example of French Neoclassical painting (click to read more on Neoclassicism from the Met) and of a very strong composition within a painting.  David chose this subject for his first royal commission.  Neoclassical themes had been popular since the Renaissance and in the mid-18th century
Neoclassical art is defined as a style that was strongly influenced by the art and history of ancient Greece and Rome.  While at the French Academy David won the Prix-de-Rome and spent several years in the city during which time he was strongly influenced by Ancient Roman art and architecture.


The Oath of the Horatii is an interesting story, the battle between the Roman Horatii family and the Curiatii family from a neighboring city was told by the Ancient Roman author known as Livy.  The Horatii brothers are swearing allegiance to Rome on the swords that their father is holding up.  All are ready to die to defend their country.
The Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David, 1784, Louvre, Paris

This is an enormous painting measuring nearly 11 feet high by 14 feet long and the figures were shown as life sized. The focal point for the viewer is the raised hands and swords of the oath, even if the viewer doesn't know the story it can be easily inferred that this is a dramatic event. 

The setting is very sparse and the sparseness works well in framing the events and not detracting from the figures.  To the right we can see the women of the story, their mother and sisters, who are obviously in despair.  This foreshadows the events to come and serves as an interesting counter balance to the strength of the brothers.  One of the sisters was engaged to a man from the rival family and she knows that someone she cares about will most certainly die in the battle.

Why would such an ancient story, one that wasn't a frequent theme be painted in late 18th century France? 

There were several reasons that Neoclassicism became popular at this time.  Visually it was quite a contrast with the frivolous Rococo style that had currently been in fashion.  It was favored by royalty as Neoclassical work reflected the power of the Roman Empire.  It was equally favored by both the American and French Revolutionaries as it tied into themes of self sacrifice and the Roman Republican period.

The ruins of Pompeii were rediscovered in the mid 1700's and in the following years the site was excavated; this led to a new understanding of and enthusiasm for Roman culture.  The 18th century is commonly referred to as "The Age of Enlightenment" and many of the great intellectuals and philosophers were influenced by the rational philosophies of their Classical counterparts.


The Tennis Court Oath, Jacques-Louis David, c-1791, Louvre, Paris
pen drawing with sepia ink wash

While The Oath of the Horatii was commissioned by the French King, David was actually very much on the side of the revolutionaries in the 18th century.  He created the above drawing of the Tennis Court Oath, where nearly 600 members of society gathered less than a month prior to the storming of the Bastille and vowed to remain together until a French Constitution was written.

David was clearly influenced by his earlier composition for this sketch, which he later turned into a painting.  The raised arms created another strong central focal point for the viewer.  Even without knowing the history behind the work the viewer can discern that an emotionally charges and dramatic event is unfolding.  Just as in the other work a symmetrical architectural background frames the scene.

The Oath of the Horatii, Armand-Charles Caraffe, 1791
Pushkin Museum, Moscow


 Armand-Charles Caraffe was a student of David's and he also painted a version of this theme.
Compare the two paintings, by looking at the two very different ways that the artists chose to arrange the figures we can see that the David painting is much more dynamic.  The theme of the Oath that the Horatii family took wasn't a common one and Caraffe would certainly have been influenced by David.  However by reversing the direction of the brother's hands the composition doesn't have as strong of a focal point.  Dramatic tension was also created in the earlier version by the use of chiaroscuro (modeling form with strong darks and lights).


Caraffe does a good job of depicting this and created an interesting work, but Jacques-Louis David's version has remained one of the most iconic images of Neoclassical French painting.

Trompe-l’oeil in art

In January of 2010 I saw a really interesting exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence: Art & Illusions: Masterpieces of Trompe-l'œil from Antiquity to the Present.  That exhibit got me to start thinking of the role of  trompe-l’oeil in art.  “Trompe-l’oeil” is French for to trick the eye, it is more than just a realistic work of art but it is something created to fool the viewer or at least make the viewer question what they are seeing.  It is a work which creates an optical illusion, however the term “Trompe-l’oeil” is used to describe a variety of illusions in art.  Some are entertaining and some create quite sophisticated illusions.

There have been many examples throughout time: Ancient Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque as well as modern and contemporary examples.  Let's look at a few of them to compare.
Still life with glass bowl of fruit and vase, wall painting, Pompeian painter c- 70 AD,
The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy

In the wall paintings uncovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum there are many examples of trompe-l’oeil.  The most typical were similar to the example above showing still-life objects sitting on a "shelf" they were created to show off the skill of the artist and to amuse the viewer.  There were also several mosaic floors created as a trompe-l’oeil showing discarded fish bones.  This skillful works also alluded to the wealth of the owner of the home.

It was said in Ancient Greece that there was a contest between two painters, Zeuxis and Parrhasius.  Zeuxis painted grapes that were so realistic they fooled birds into trying to eat them.  However Parrhasius won the contest as he even fooled the other artist; he had painted a pair of curtains and Zeuxis thought that his painting lay behind the curtains.

I don't know if the story is real, but regardless it demonstrates that trompe-l’oeil has been a part of art for centuries.

Painting of a false dome, Andrea Pozzo, 1685, Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio, Rome, Italy
photo- © Jean-Christophe BENOIST/ public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

Painter Andrea Pozzo cleverly created a false dome within the church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome.  The illusion works perfectly if the viewer is standing in a certain area, they would look up and see a "dome" which is in fact a flat surface with a fake dome painted in.  It is clever as no one would be expecting this type of trompe-l’oeil in a church.  However if the viewer is standing in another area the trick doesn't work.
Architectural trompe-l'oeil gallery, Francesco Borromini, Palazzo Spada, Rome, 1638 
Trompe-l’oeil in art can also be found in sculpture and architecture such as this example by Borromini done earlier in the century. This gallery is a tour de force of trompe-l’oeil in which shrinking rows of columns and a rising floor create the illusion that the gallery is four times longer than it is.  The illusion is made through the use of light, spacing of the columns and the fact that the two archways are vastly different heights.

At first glance Borromini’s gallery is quite long, leading to a statue at the end.  The statue is about three-quarters the height of the distant doorway.  However when I visited a guide walked from one end to the next to show our group of students the illusion; at the far end she was the same height as the statue, but as she walked along the path we saw she was only about a quarter of the height of the first archway.

This can be explained when you realize that the two doorways are of different heights.  However since Borromini constructed this with seemingly perfect perspective, the false perspective tricks you into believing that both doorways are of the same height if you walked from one to the other.

The Staircase Group (Portrait of Raphaelle Peale and Titian Ramsay Peale), Charles Willson Peale, 1795,
oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art; The George W. Elkins Collection

 In this work early American painter Charles Willson Peale creates a trompe-l’oeil by painting life size portraits.
“To enhance the illusion, he installed the painting within a doorframe in his studio, with a real step in front. Rembrandt Peale, another son, recalled that his father's friend George Washington, misled by Peale's artifice, tipped his hat and greeted the two young men as he walked by.”*
*Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 267.

Again the Art & Illusions: Masterpieces of Trompe-l'œil exhibit was one of the most interesting art exhibits I have seen: 150 objects related to illusion. Examples really did “trick the eye” into thinking surfaces weren’t flat, objects were coming off the canvas, the canvas was  a piece of wood, or a cabinet with open doors, or something was sculpted rather than painted.  Some  were truly remarkable and I wanted to reach out and touch them as the illusion was so convincing.  

I actually did get tricked with a Duane Hanson sculpture. Hanson was a late 20th century American “hyper-realist” who sculpted people and used real objects in his sculptures, in that exhibit it was a mom pushing a stroller. I didn’t really look at “her” I thought it was a mom pushing a stroller until the person next to me got so close they set off an alarm and then everyone turned to stare and I was truly startled that they weren’t real.  They had her set up as if she was a spectator looking at a painting, which added to the illusion.

That is probably why trompe-l’oeil has worked well and has endured to the present day, because so many examples really do fool the viewer.

Continuous Narrative in Art

What is meant by the "Continuous Narrative" in art?  Many artworks contain a "narrative" or representation of an event.  The continuous narrative is a way to tell an entire story within one artwork, the same characters show up repeatedly in order to give a timeline of events in the story.  Often the same groups of characters are shown right next to each other in the same painting or sculptural frieze. 


These side by side scenes can be thought of as pre-cursors to modern day comic strips.  They weren’t shown in different panels, but this would have been understood by contemporary audiences to be telling a story.

Column of Marcus Aurelius, detail, bottom three bands of helical relief 
Emperor's campaigns against the Germans and the Sarmatians. 180-185 A.D., Rome
photo- © Simone Ramella / public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  


This was used as far back as ancient Assyrian and Babylonian art and remained popular throughout much of art history to depict an entire event from start to finish.  The Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome has one long sculptural frieze that winds up the entire length of the column.  The column shaft measures nearly 100 feet (29.62 meters) long.

It is nearly impossible for a viewer on the ground to look up and see the entire story and know what is going on.  The sculptors took this into account and made each band slightly wider as it wound up the column.  The heads of the figures were also shown slightly larger than proportionally correct so that they could be recognized from below.

As this column shows several military battles where the Romans were triumphant, the same soldiers and military commanders are shown over and over again.  Objects such as trees, rivers, horses and architecture help separate and frame each scene.





Column of Marcus Aurelius, c-193 A.D., Rome
photo- © Matthias Kabel / public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

The technique of continuous narrative was used frequently in Renaissance painting.  A good example of this can also  be found in the large devotional panel by Gentile da Fabriano which shows the adoration (seen below).  
 Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
egg tempera and gold leaf on wood panel


The main scene shows the three Magi (or three wise men) as they have come to give gifts to the newborn Christ child.  However the Magi are shown in miniature in the scenes above, from the first time they see the Star of Bethlehem to the entire journey they make.  We can see the star several times as well and it ends up glowing like a golden orb over St. Joseph's head in the central scene.

In the detail (below) we can see a close up of the left arch of the painting and can make out the three Magi seeing the Star of Bethlehem for the first time.  In each of the other two arches the viewer can follow along with their journey.
Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
detail of the central upper register of the panel 


St. Peter is seen three times in the fresco below.  This fresco by Masaccio is especially interesting as the story does not occur from left to right as in most examples, but jumps from the center to the left and then to the right.  This biblical story was very well known, so the contemporary viewer would not have been confused by this.  The story begins in the central portion of the frame when the tax collector asks for the temple tax and Christ tells his apostles that they need to find money to pay the temple tax, he turns to Peter and tells him to look in the mouth of a fish in order to find the coin.  This event of course is a miraculous one.

Part two of the story takes place just to the left of the main action, St. Peter is wearing the same blue robe but has set his golden sash aside for a moment while he looks for a fish in the sea.  Then part three of the story jumps over to the right hand side where after finding the coin as Christ has said, St. Peter pays the tax.  Again to help the viewer keep track of St. Peter, he is shown wearing his blue robe and gold sash and the tax collector is the only person wearing a short tunic.


The Tribute Money, Masaccio, 1425, fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

In his famous fresco cycle in Santa Maria Novella the artist Ghirlandaio has also used continuous narrative.  Remember from earlier blog posts that Ghirlandaio was in fact the teacher of Michelangelo.  Michelangelo was a student in his workshop during the time that these frescoes were being painted, so he would have worked on these as well.

In the panel showing the birth of the Virgin Mary, the birth is concentrated in the lower right hand portion of the frame.  However the Immaculate Conception (which refers to the fact that Mary's mother St. Anne was impregnated by just a kiss from her husband Joachim) is shown to us in the top left hand portion.  Therefore St. Anne is shown twice in the same room.  However that was understood by all to have occurred at two different times within the same story; even though each event took place nine months apart.




Immaculate Conception and Birth of the Virgin Mary, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485-90
Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence


In our final example (below) we are seeing the Rest on the Flight Into Egypt.  The artist David shows us that this is his theme rather than a typical portrait of the Virgin and Child by showing the holy family in the background in the woods.  By seeing two versions of Jesus and the Madonna, one in the foreground and one in the background, the viewer understands that they are both scenes in the same story.  The riding of the donkey is always understood in Renaissance painting as being part of the flight into Egypt from the Biblical story.

The use of the same figures in one panel, which David employs quite subtly in this work, is yet another example of the continuous narrative in art.


Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard David, 1512-15
oil on wood panel, Museo del Prado, Madrid


Now that you have learned about the use of the continuous narrative in art you will certainly notice many other examples.



Songwriting - Understanding the Purposes of Verses, Choruses and Every Other Section of a Song

It's important to understand that each section of a song typically has a role to fulfill. If you know the purpose of each section in your song, you'll be better prepared to write a great song. Of course, most songs won't use all of the sections listed below, but knowing the purpose of your sections is crucial to understanding how to put together a solid song.

Verse
Lyrically, the verses of your song will move your story forward. The chorus or refrain is likely to have the same words each time, so the verse is your chance to keep your ideas moving along.

Chorus
Think of your chorus as the big idea for what your song's all about. That's partly why your title is most likely to show up in your chorus. Your title also sums up what the song's about. Melodically, the chorus will be the catchiest part of your song. This is what people will have stuck in their head long after your song is over. That's another reason it's good to have your title in the chorus. When people get your chorus stuck in their head, they'll easily know what your song is called and can find it later when they want to hear it again.

Pre-Chorus
The pre-chorus is an add-on before the chorus. It usually repeats the same lyrics each time, the same way a chorus does. Musically, a lot of times it creates a nice build up to what's coming in the chorus. Katy Perry's "Firework" was a good example of that, as you saw above.

Bridge
The bridge is a departure from what we've heard in a song, previously. This goes for both the lyrics and the music. Lyrically, it's an opportunity for a new perspective. Musically, it's a chance to offer the listener something they haven't heard before to keep the song interesting.

Refrain
In the verse / verse / bridge / verse song structure, the refrain is the line that draws all the attention in your verses. It's usually at the beginning or end of each verse and is often the title of the song.

Hook
The hook doesn't necessarily refer to a specific section of a song, except to say it's the catchiest part of a song. Most of the time, it will be your chorus, if your song has one. If your song doesn't have a chorus your hook will most likely be your refrain. As hit songwriter, Clay Drayton, says "A fish knows the hook... Once it's in you, it's hard to get it out."

A Short Guide to the Entire History of Italian Renaissance Painting

The art of the Italian Renaissance continues to fascinate and influence us more than four hundred years after it has ended.  But what exactly does the "Italian Renaissance" refer to in terms of painting and how can it best be understood?

Brancacci Chapel: Saint Peter Raising the Son of Theophilus and 
Saint Peter Enthroned as First Bishop of Antioch, Masaccio, 1425, fresco (Santa Maria del Carmine)

The exact parameters are up for debate but I am referring to art created by artists who lived in what is currently considered Italy from 1300 to 1600.  The definitive idea of the "Italian Renaissance" was conceived of in the mid-19th century. When I lecture on this subject I tell my students that the phrase "Italian Renaissance" is a bit misleading for a few reasons.
Temptation and Expulsion, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, Vatican, 1508-12

Keep in mind that Italy was not united as a modern country until 1861, during the Renaissance it was governed by several large city-states including The Vatican (Rome), The Kingdom of Naples (ruled after 1504 by the Spanish), the Republic of Florence, the Duchy of Milan, The Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy (Torino) and Sardinia among others. Due to the different independent city-states the art and architecture from each region was in fact quite different and should be noted as such rather than being thought of as one overall "Italian" style.

The three hundred year period known as the Renaissance (the rebirth of classical arts and humanities) can be further broken into several chronological periods.  Contemporary writer Giorgio Vasari conceived of the Trecento, Quattrocento and Cinquecento to describe the 1300's, 1400's and 1500's and I find that terminology useful as well as a way to describe the artistic differences between the early, middle and later periods.

Here then is our Short Guide to the Entire History of Italian Renaissance Painting:

Early Renaissance/Trecento (the 1300's)


Virgin Enthroned with Angels, Cimabue,                                  The Ognissanti Madonna, Giotto,
c-1290-95,tempera on panel, Louvre                                      1306-10, tempera on panel, Uffizi

The art of the Trecento is considered to be Medieval by some scholars and the start of the Renaissance by others.  The purpose of art at this time was primarily to teach Christianity and Biblical stories and was primarily found in churches.  Paintings typically used egg tempera on wood panels, the egg yolk was used as a binder for loose pigments.  This method was later supplanted by using oil such as linseed oil as a binder but egg tempera is still used today.

The background was a thin sheet of gold leaf carefully pressed on a thin surface of "bole" which was a red clay.  This helped the gold adhere to the panel and also helped it have a warm color.  

The idea of realism wasn't important as it would be later, the purpose of these devotional panels was to both teach people of Christianity and help the faithful reflect on God, Christ, Mary, Saints and Angels. Trecento devotional paintings were influenced by Eastern Orthodox Icon paintings.

Giotto di Bondone is considered by many to be the father of the Renaissance, compare his more realistic Madonna on the right with that of his master Cimabue.  Giotto started including individual expressions and a sense of perspective to his painting style.

Lamentation of Christ, Giotto, c-1305
fresco, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua    
       

Giotto's new use of realism can best be seen in his two major cycles of frescoes, one at the church of St. Francis of Assisi and the other at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.  The art of fresco was the most difficult painting method.  It involved adding pigment to fresh plaster, when it dried it would be permanently sealed.  Its permanence was attractive, that and it's ability to cover much more space than a devotional panel is what caused this type of painting to be so popular in the Renaissance.

Look at an example of Giotto's fresco above, the new naturalistic style became extremely popular.  Giotto moved away from the Iconographic portrayal of religious figures to depict each individual and his images were quite powerful.  His style was influential upon other artists, such as the Sienese painter Simone Martini, for the rest of the century.

Christ Carrying the Cross, Simone Martini, tempera on panel, 1333, The Louvre

The Renaissance had begun, in art as well as in the sciences and humanities.  However due to wars and plagues the artistic inventions of the Renaissance waned for a time until the early 1400's.


Middle Renaissance/Quatrocento (the 1400's)
One of the things that sets Italian Renaissance Quattrocento art apart from earlier art is the use of perspective to add depth and realism.  Sculptor and architect Filippo Brunelleschi carefully observed art and ancient Roman architecture and through his observations developed the modern system of single point perspective using a vanishing point.  The first painter to incorporate this new style was Masaccio in his St. Peter fresco cycle in Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence done around 1425 (see example below).

 The Tribute Money, Masaccio, 1425, fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

This new perspective allowed multiple figures to occupy a space and not seem stacked on top of each other as in older paintings (compare Masaccio with Cimabue's Madonna).  Figures sat in different points on a plane and lines within architecture all converged at the same point in space.  Examples of both can be seen in Masaccio's fresco The Tribute Money.

Madonna and Child with Two Angels, Fra Filippo Lippi, 1465,
egg tempera on wood panel, Uffizi

Other hallmarks of the Quattrocento (or middle Renaissance) use of perspective are a clear foreground, middle ground and background within a painting.  The colors in the background would be faded and grayish in tone.  To add the sense of a background many artists such as Lippi (above) would set up a portraiture scene with a window in the background so that the viewer could see a landscape outside.  Madonnas and other figures were painted using life models rather than copying older painting or sculptures.


Oculus from the Camera degli Sposi (wedding chamber), Andrea Mantegna, 1465-74
fresco, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua, Italy

Andrea Mantegna from the Veneto region is thought as being the first painter to develop foreshortening in his paintings.  A good example can be seen above in the small fresco used to decorate the ceiling of the wedding chamber of the Ducal Palace in Mantua.


The figures and perspective have been altered to create a convincing illusion of depth when seen from below.  The surface they have been painted on is flat but due to the use of foreshortening appears to continue upward.  In Italian there is an expression for this "di sotto in su" which means to be seen from below upwards and this idea began to be incorporated into painting, sculpture and architecture.

Christ Giving the Keys to Saint Peter, Perugino, 1481-82, fresco
Sistine Chapel walls, Vatican, Rome

This period in the Renaissance is also noted for its sense of perfect harmony and proportion, again this harmony was used in painting, sculpture and architecture as well as music and writing.  Art was symmetrical and balanced, look at the example above by Perugino.  Here the artist uses a balance of shape, form, color and movement.

Landscapes and figures were idealized and beauty in all things was emphasized.  Common forms and shapes were circles, domes, squares, rounded arches, triangular compositions and a floor or ground which had lines or a grid which went back in space to emphasize the new perspective.  Perugino was from the city of Perugia in the Umbrian region and was one of the teachers of Raphael who acquired his master's sense of harmony.

The Birth of Venus, Alessandro Botticelli, 1486, egg tempera on canvas, Uffizi

For centuries Christian art and artists shunned the arts and literature of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations as being pagan or heathen.  However the Renaissance is so described as it was a "rebirth" of Classical ideas.  The knowledge of the ancients was once again revered and art now reflected the combination of Christian values with Classical knowledge.  A good example of this can be seen in Botticelli's well know painting The Birth of Venus.

There are many theories as to the exact message in this work, but at this time we now see a turning towards Classical mythology for the first time in centuries.

As it states in the book Gardner’s Art Through the Ages

“The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 caused an exodus of Greek scholars,  many of whom fled to Italy, bringing knowledge of ancient Greece to feed the avid interest in Classical art, literature and philosophy. The same conquest closed the Mediterranean making it necessary to fine new routes to the East. Thus began the age of navigation, discovery and exploration.”


Note- for more information of Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and the Beginnings of the Renaissance read my earlier blog post on the subject.

*Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Concise History. Wadsworth Publishing; 2nd  edition (April 15, 2008). pg. 246.

Art of the High Renaissance (1490-1520) 
I will start by saying that there were dozens of well known and influential painters during what has come to be known as the High Renaissance.  However since this is my "short guide" which is already lengthy I will focus on the most famous three: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarotti and Raphael di Sanzio.  Such was their fame that they are today commonly called by their first names rather than their last names.

A short list of some of other influential painters of the High Renaissance includes: Antonio da Correggio, Luca Signorelli, Giorgio Vasari, Giovanni Bellini, Fra Bartolomeo, Lorenzo Lotto, Andrea del Sarto and Jacopo Bassano.  One of the hallmarks of the time was the fact that artists were so prolific during this period.

However Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael all achieved great fame in their own lifetimes as being masters of painting and it is easy to see why.  Each made huge progress within the arts, let's discuss some examples below.

         Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-19
Oil paint on poplar panel
 Giovanna Tornabuoni, Ghirlandaio, 1489-90                            
  tempera on panel, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

I personally adore the egg tempera portraits of the quattrocento age such as the one by Ghirlandaio (above).  I think the colors appear jewel like and the primitive style is charming, this style of portraiture was quite popular.  The portrait in profile was influenced by having ones portrait on coins and medals, however it wasn't the most realistic view.

Let's compare it to the Mona Lisa which was painted less then 15 years later, the use of oil paint gives the work a richness that cannot be achieved with egg tempera.  Seen side by side Leonardo's painting looks almost like a photograph, he uses the more realistic 3/4 view of his sitter.  He also pioneered "chiaroscuro" which used light and dark to model form rather than using flatter outlines.  His technique of "sfumato" was to create painting with many thin glazes or layers of oil paint rather than the bright and flat washes of egg tempera.

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1495-98, fresco, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

He also used perspective convincingly and chose to focus on the character and personality of each figure in his composition.  Leonardo is considered a genius and ultimate Renaissance man, however since he worked on so many engineering projects he produced few paintings.

The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1508-12, fresco, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Vatican

Michelangelo  considered himself above all a sculptor, but his paintings also changed the direction of art at this time.  He was a rival of Leonardo but each also had an influence upon each other.  He was also a Renaissance man and worked at architecture and poetry as well, he only painted a few works....but what works they were, his Sistine Chapel frescoes have influenced generations of artists.
Michelangelo's  great breakthrough in art was his use of convincing and realistic human figures.  He studied anatomy, drew frequently from the model and even dissected corpses in order to better understand muscles and bone structure.  Look carefully at the samples from his fresco cycle to see how he changed the way the figure was portrayed.

The Lybian Sybil, Michelangeo, 1508-12 
fresco, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Vatican  
La Donna Velata, Raphael, 1514-15, 
oil on canvas
Palatine Gallery, Palazzo Pitti
    
Raphael was considered a child prodigy when it came to painting, he captured the perfect harmony of his master Perugino, combined it with the new realistic painting techniques of Leonardo and added the dynamic force of Michelangelo to create a beautiful painting style all his own.

Unlike the other two masters of the High Renaissance Raphael painted many, many paintings.  He painted more paintings in his short life (Raphael died on his 37th birthday) than Leonardo and Michelangelo combined.  He painted both fresco and on canvas with oils and continued to enhance and reinvent his style.

The death of Raphael in 1520 signaled the end of the High Renaissance.


Deliverance of Saint Peter, Raphael, 1514, fresco, Stanza di Eliodoro, Vatican, Rome


The Late Renaissance/Cinquecento (the 1500's)

The Tempest, Giorgione, 1508,oil on canvas
The Accademia Gallery, Venice

The later part of the Renaissance was dominated by the Venetian School of painting.  The Venetian school also included many talented artists but I will focus on three: Titian, Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti).  The rivalry and influence between the three artists is reminiscent of the masters of the High Renaissance.

There are a few things to keep in mind with the Venetian school.  First is that unlike the Florentine and Roman painters the Venetians were using primarily oil on canvas.  The art of fresco painting didn't work as well with the dampness that Venice had.  This led to new painting methods and techniques as the method for fresco and for oil on canvas is completely different. 


Assumption of the Virgin, Titian, 1516-18, oil on canvas
The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice


The Florentines focused on design and drawing while the Venetians focused on the richness of color that was available with the medium of oil paint.  Also the Venetians had a wider variety of pigments at their disposal because they were a major trading port- THE major trading port of Europe at that point and so many pigments came from other areas, Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, cinnabar from China, etc. 


The Venetians were known for using sensuality in art, including the use of the female nude which wasn't as popular before.  Perhaps that is due to the fact that the patronage had shifted from churches and the pope to individual wealthy patrons and ruling families.

Venus of Urbino, Titian, 1538, oil on canvas, Uffizi Gallery


Moses Striking Water from the Rock, Tintoretto, 1577, oil on canvas, Scuola di San Rocco, Venice



Part of the change in technique was that they didn't start out on a white background; especially Tintoretto used very dark backgrounds and built up layers of highlights.  Their technique is referred to as indirect painting as they use many washes and glazes of thin color to build up their final images.  Another change was the addition of dramatic approaches to painting, gone are the perfect harmony and Renaissance proportions (such as Perugino’s fresco shown above) and they are replaced by dramatic and asymmetrical compositions (such as Titian's Madonna).




Feast in the House of Levi, Veronese, 1571-73, oil on canvas, Accademia Gallery, Venice

The Venetians also had as patrons the churches in Venice and the Veneto (not as much with the papal rulers) and the Doge of Venice too.  This time period in art coincided with the Counter-Reformation so a lot of the art is very Catholic.  Veronese's huge painting Feast in the House of Levi was really a Last Supper but he was brought to trial in front of a judge to explain it as it didn't meet the Counter Reformations new codes for religious painting.  Veronese had worked for a few years on it, so he gave it a new title and modified the scene to fit with that.

While the Renaissance did continue after this time, the new style of Baroque was ushered in around 1600.

Additional Reading
History of Italian Renaissance Art, Painting∙Sculpture∙Architecture, Frederick Hartt and David Wilkins. Prentice Hall, 2010.

The Lives of the Artists (Oxford World's Classics) by Giorgio Vasari. Translated from Italian by Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. Oxford University Press, 1998.


Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, Ross King. Penguin, 2003.




Rodin's The Thinker

 I recently visited San Francisco and went to the Legion of Honor Museum.  I saw many wonderful works of art but was really happy to get to see one of the bronze casts of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker.  This sculpture has been cast in bronze nearly 25 times and those works are located in a variety of museums and parks throughout the world.  In addition there have also been several smaller versions of the sculpture cast in materials other than bronze.

I personally have also seen Rodin's The Thinker at the Rodin Museum in Paris and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and every time I am struck by this profoundly beautiful work.

This is probably the most famous of all of Rodin's sculptures, an image synonymous with the sculptor himself.

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). The Thinker, 1903. Cast bronze, Rodin Museum in Paris

The sculpture was intended to portray the great 14th century Italian author and poet Dante Alighieri.  However it has now been transformed by those who observe it to represent a man in thought, or the idea of the thoughts of humanity.  It was originally called The Poet to refer to Dante.


Rodin undertook an enormous project to create a set of doors for the French Decorative Arts Museum in Paris and the theme for this was the Gates of Hell from Dante's Inferno (from his Divine Comedy), the author's imaginings on hell and afterlife.  Another of Rodin's most famous sculptures, The Kiss, also represents characters from Dante's Inferno, the star crossed lovers Francesca and Paolo.

Rodin, The Gates of Hell, 1917, one of the three original bronze casts
 Rodin Sculpture National Museum of Western Art Ueno Taito-ku Tokyo Japan

Like The Thinker or many of Rodin's other bronze sculptures, The Gates of Hell has also been cast many times.  A detail is shown above with The Thinker at the top in the tympanum of the door looking down upon everything.  The entire sculptural work contains 180 figures and this version of The Thinker is much smaller than the more well known over life size work.

This sculpture is a good example of the naturalism that Rodin was famous for.  Take a minute to carefully observe this figure, his muscles, bones and facial expressions are all taken straight from life and nothing is idealized or over dramatized as some works of art were at this time.
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917). The Thinker, 1904. Cast bronze
Gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels


Dante is portrayed as being deep in thought in this contemplative pose.  Depending on the sources that I have read over he is either meant to be shown thinking about what he is about to write, what he has written, the fate of those in hell (since it was conceived as a part of The Gates of Hell from Dante's Inferno) or the fate of mankind.  It is certainly possible that he could be thinking about all of those ideas.

Your Art History Blogger in front of Rodin's The Thinker at the Legion of Honor


There are several other works and artists which have been said to have inspired Rodin.  Rodin was influenced quite a bit by the muscular nudes of Michelangelo such as can be seen below from a section of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.  The athletic male nudes that surround each larger fresco have come to be called "ignudi" and the poses of the various ignudi inspired Rodin.  The particular seated pose could also have been inspired by Michelangelo's figure of Lorenzo de'Medici from the Medici family tomb in San Lorenzo in Florence.


Another source of inspiration was said to have come from the French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's statue of Ugolino.  Ugolino was another character from the Inferno and he met his end by starving to death while imprisoned.

Rodin had spoken frequently of his debt to Michelangelo's work.  During his lifetime he traveled to Florence and had visited the Casa Buonarroti which is a museum honoring the Renaissance master.
God Separating Darkness and Light, Michelangelo
Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Vatican, 1508-12 
 Ugolino, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1867-1869) Petit Palais, Paris
 Gift of Louise Clément-Carpeaux, daughter of the artist, 1938

In addition to The Thinker, which sits outside in the entrance courtyard,  The Legion of Honor has a gallery devoted to the beautiful sculptures of Auguste Rodin.  I recommend that anyone who is visiting San Francisco should take a tour through this museum.

Suggested Reading:
Fergonzi, Flavio. Miaria Mimita Lamberti, Pina Ragionieri and Christopher Riopelle. Rodin and Michelangelo, A study in Artistic Inspiration. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996.