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.

Sculpting David: Donatello and Michelangelo

The young figure of King David, as represented in the Biblical story of David and Goliath is frequently represented throughout art history.  Perhaps no representation is as well known as Michelangelo's sculpture of David in Florence.

David, Michelangelo, marble, 1501-1504, Accademia Gallery, Florence
photo- © Rico Heil / public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

Michelangelo won a contest to carve the figure of David out of a block of marble that had been worked on more than 50 years earlier possibly by Donatello or a member of his workshop.  At that time the marble was said to have had a flaw in it and the project was abandoned.  Michelangelo however was very excited to have the opportunity to now carve from it.  He was just starting out in his career and only 26 years old when he began this piece.  

The subject of David and Goliath was a popular one, and at this time in history it was commissioned to represent the city of Florence.  Florence was a small city and could be seen as the smaller "David" winning battles with several different "Goliaths." France had taken control of the Duchy of Milan in 1494 and then the French army marched to Florence, however Florence was able to negotiate for peace instead of captivity.  The famous influential Medici family was exiled from Florence when Lorenzo's son Piero II rose to power, before the Florentines created their peace treaty with France he surrendered the main fortress of Tuscany to avoid war.  The Florentines were enraged and the Medici were exiled for nearly 20 years.

In the 1490's the Domenican monk Savonarola had wielded much power over the Florentines and preached that the new arts and humanism of the Renaissance would bring down the city.  He staged several huge bonfires known as "Bonfires of the Vanities" in which art, books, furniture, clothing, jewelry and anything he considered a luxury were burned.  He was burned at the stake in Florence in 1498 after being excommunicated by the Pope.

As Florence faced the French army, the Medici and Savonarola and kept coming out ahead the symbol of the boy David facing the giant Goliath had an extra layer of symbolism and came to represent the pride they had in their republic.
Michelangelo's David is different in that he chose to depict the moment before David kills the giant Goliath.  He isn't afraid at all, he is shown with complete confidence as he faces his much larger foe and knows for certain that he will emerge the victor.  The symbolism here is that Florence emerged as victorious several times from large threats in the 1490's and would again in the years to come. 

Michelangelo's close study of human anatomy (including dissecting corpses to learn more about bones and muscles) can be seen here in what has come to be thought of as the perfect example of the human form.
Giorgio Vasari was a contemporary of Michelangelo and an artist himself, but is known best for his comprehensive biography of all the Italian Renaissance artists, known as Lives of the Artists.  In this book he tells a story about Michelangelo and his sculpture of David (paraphrased from pgs 427-428):

As he was finishing the statue Piero Soderini who was the Gonfaloniere (one of the highest posts in the Florentine government) stopped by and said that he really liked the David but that the nose was too big and that Michelangelo should chisel it down to make it smaller.  Michelangelo had no intention of changing the finished David but also thought that Soderini was looking at it from the wrong angle.  He climbed a ladder with a handful of marble dust and his chisel and pretended to chisel as he threw the dust around.  

When he asked him what he thought now Soderini said, "I like it better, you've made it come alive."

David, Donatello, bronze, c-1430, National Bargello Museum, Florence
photo- © Patrick A. Rodgers / public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

This wasn't the first time that Donatello had sculpted the David, but this sculpture was a departure from his earlier two.  The others were both done in marble showing a young clothed boy, the first was created in 1408-09 and the second was begun around 1412 and was left unfinished. 

In fact Donatello's 1430 bronze David was a departure from any contemporary figurative sculpture, being the first life-size nude created since antiquity.  This was done when Donatello was well established in his career and was commissioned by the extremely influential Cosimo de'Medici.

Donatello has sculpted a "Triumphant David" in that he showed him after he has already killed Goliath and his foot rests upon the giant's severed head.  He is sculpted after the battle between the two. The sculpture was meant to stand in the round, many of Donatello's works were created for niches but this was meant to be seen from all sides.  He has sculpted him in a contrapposto pose, a term which refers to the naturalistic way in which a human figure is shown with weight distributed to one hip and how the rest of the body shifts in relation to that.  Michelangelo drew on this type of contrapposto pose when he created his David as well.

Let's compare these two famous sculptures of David side by side:

Both look towards the ancient classical examples found in Greek or Roman sculpture and Michelangelo was also influenced by all the work of Donatello who he considered a great master sculptor.  Donatello's earlier version was created over 70 years earlier and was inspired by the ancient art he saw on his trip to Rome (discussed further in an older post on the Beginnings of the Renaissance.)

There is a great difference in size between the two: Donatello's stands at 6 feet tall (185 cm) while Michelangelo's is over twice it's size at 13 feet, 5 inches tall (411 cm).  Another big difference in the way they were constructed, Donatello modeled his figure in clay and then had it cast in bronze.  This was technically very difficult, after it was sculpted it would be covered in wax which would eventually be melted out when molten bronze was poured into the mold made from it.  Michelangelo carved his David from a huge block of marble.

As stated earlier Michelangelo shows the moment before David slays Goliath, where Donatello shows a scene after the battle.   Both were revolutionary works of art that changed the direction of sculpture that came after them. 

An Overview of Electric Guitar History

The Majority of the musical genres depend heavily on the use of electric guitars. There are many types of these instruments available. These instruments were developed just 70 years back (the 1930's) by Adolph Rickenbacker. From that period, these guitars have significantly advanced to the level where it's today. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the electric guitar history.

The Brief History

The earliest electric guitars included smaller sound holes in their body. These types of instruments are classified as semi hollow body and still they are fairly popular nowadays, mainly because of the reason that they're of flexible models.

By making use of pick-ups, it was capable to make guitars with no sound holes (just like the Classical and Acoustic guitars) if connected to the guitar amplifiers. These models are known as solid-body.

The electric guitar's recognition started to increase over the Big-Band era of the 1930's and 1940's. Because of the high magnitude of sound of the brass sections in jazz musical groups, there was a need for guitars that can be heard over the sections. These instruments, with the capability to be connected to amplifiers, filled up this void.

The most common instrument these days was the solid body. This instrument was found by an inventor and musician, Les Paul in the year 1941. It was a guitar made out of solid wood with no sound-holes. The original solid body instrument developed by Paul was fairly simple - it was a rectangle shaped block of solid wood attached to a neck together with 6 steel guitar strings. Les Paul's original solid-body guitar appearance has, not surprisingly, changed from the primary rectangular design to a round design Les Paul guitars.

Gibson presented Les Paul's design to the public in the year 1958. This model was called as 'The Gibson Les Paul' and it rapidly grew to become a very famous instrument. It's remained the most famous instrument for fifty years.

Around the same time period, another inventor called Leo Fender found a solid-body electric guitar of his very own. During the 1940's, Fender released the Fender-Broadcaster electric guitar. This model was re-named the Strato-caster, was officially brought to the general public in the year 1954. The Strat, as it's now called, was completely a different guitar in comparison with Les Paul's. The Strat had a distinct shape as well as hardware and it was very lighter in weight. Fender's Strato-caster electric guitar is the 2nd most in-demand instrument, next to the Les Paul.

Academic Still-Life Painting in 18th Century France

The year 1648 was notable as the French Royal Academy of Art (Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture) was founded in Paris. French artists would now have uniform training and the Royal State would be able to control art production. As Ludwig states in his essay on Still-Life Painting in the Eighteenth Century:

“The most important developments in 18th century painting came from France, that is artists who worked under privileged conditions but also fiercer competition, as a result of the French state’s efforts to make the city of Paris a center of European art.”  [1]
  Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, The Ray, 1728, The Louvre

Excellence in French art was seen as reflecting on the magnificence of King Louis XIV. In 1737 the Annual Salon was established at the Academy and the work of artists was now viewed by the public on a regular basis.

In the Royal Academy a strict hierarchy of subject matter was created, most important was history painting which helped promote the state, still-life was referred to as “dead nature”; the least significant category. The still-life was considered the art of copying, not an intellectual art.

As the Enlightenment flourished in Europe, the importance of reason was spread by scientists and writers, such as Voltaire and Diderot. Inspired by new ideas of rationalism and order, themes in painting shifted toward a greater simplicity in both technique and subject matter.
Chardin was accepted into the Academy in 1728 and during his career he became well known for his still-lives. He also adopted a rational approach to the use of color and paint and applied a minimalist style to his work, influenced by ideas from this time. Rather than showing every detail of objects, Chardin painted in a way such as to capture the essence of them. As the writer and art critic Diderot said of Chardin:

“Oh Chardin! It is not white, red or black that you grind on your palette: it is the very substance of your subjects: it is air and light that you dip your brush into and transfer and attach to the canvas.”

Chardin’s work was highly praised and he influenced an entire generation of painters.

One such painter was Anne Vallayer-Coster. She was admitted into the Royal Academy in 1770 based on the strength of her still-lives and was one of only four women admitted in the 18th century. Her work attracted the attention of Marie-Antoinette and she became one of the painters of the royal court. Women had been long excluded from this profession, but talented artists such as Vallayer-Coster found success within the still-life genre.

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Still-Life with Tuft of Marine Plants, Shells and Corals, 1769, Louvre

Chardin, The Attributes of the Arts and their Rewards, 1766, Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The new importance of artists in France at the time was reflected in another still-life by Chardin, The Attributes of the Arts and their Rewards. This was painted in honor of his friend the sculptor Pigalle, the first sculptor to win the highest award from the Order of St. Michael. This work is an allegory of the arts which symbolized that being an artist was a learned and noble profession, and one that contributed greatly toward the French culture in the 18th century.

[1] Heidrun Ludwig. Still-Life Painting in the Eighteenth Century. Sander, Jochen. ed. The Magic of Things: Still Life Painting 1500-1800, page 337
[2] Tuchman, Phyllis, The Quiet Master of Jean Simeon Chardin, 5.
Bibliography/suggested further reading-
Sander, Jochen. ed. The Magic of Things: Still Life Painting 1500-1800. Frankfurt am Main,
            Germany: Stadel Museum, 2008.

Tuchman, Phyllis. The Quiet Master of Jean Simeon Chardin. Smithsonian Magazine, June 2000.