European Art Essay

The Renaissance period was hugely significant for the development of European civilization at large and art in particular. Initially engendered in Italy, Renaissance was widely spread throughout Europe and representatives of Renaissance art may be found in many European countries, including such remote from its birthplace Italy ones as the Netherlands and France. Moreover, its impact on European art was observed decades and even centuries after the Renaissance epoch ended.

Among the artist dramatically influenced by Renaissance may be named Salvador Dali. One of the most famous painted created by this artist is “Melting Clocks.”

In fact, this painting depicts limp watches that are melting in an eerie landscape. The painting seems to be a bit misbalanced since its left part is obviously more emphasized than right one. The work is executed basically in dark colors that produce a definite influence on the viewers’ impressions. But in general, the painting is a typical sample of the Surrealistic style. “Melting Clocks” provoke to think about eternal philosophical problems such as life and death, time and its flow. Dark colors prevailing in the painting only strengthen the impression of the fact that our life is not endless and clocks melting under the sun indicate at its temporal limits while the brightness of the sun and the sea inspire the hope that life on earth will never end.

It is also necessary to take into consideration the circumstances and the period when the painting was created. The work was created in the epoch when the influence of Freud’s writing and ideas was dominant, and Dali could not fail to be influenced by Freud. Nonetheless, the impact of Renaissance is still apparent. So, Dali’s “Melting Clocks,” it is a product of the artist’s imagination, talent and his time.

Another famous artist, whose creative work is characterized by a high degree of individuality and is influenced by the Renaissance Period, mainly its trend to experiment, is Vincent van Gogh. One of the most popular and extremely unusual at the same time painting of this artist is “Starry Night.”

At first glance at the painting, it becomes obvious that the night sky is very original and deprived of its blackness and darkness that seems to be so typical for the night sky. Van Gogh depicts the night sky blackness as “deep, rich, velvet blue that is more bottomless than any ocean” (Zakes 1995:178). The artist paid a particular attention to the night sky because he saw or wanted us to see something beyond it, something more powerful than weak humans that remind us about the epoch of Renaissance since this night sky seems to be alive, inspiring optimism in every human and it also symbolizes something eternal as life that never stops.

Looking closer, it is possible to notice that “the earth itself seems to respond to the movement in the heavens” (Zakes 1995:211), shaping its vivid waves in the mountains and several trees beneath them. It is quite remarkable that in a night the windows of the houses in the village symbolically painted in the colors of the universe. On the other hand, the church steeple symbolizes the striving for unity with God to which it crumbles. This scene is quite vivid and picturesque. However, the church seems to be intentionally dwarfed by the surrounding cypress trees at the left.

At the same time, this painted may be treated as a creation of a person, who, being a deep personal crisis, hopes for better. In all probability, it was a response of van Gogh to the severe reality of his life since “Starry Night” was painted when he lived in poverty and often suffered from depression.

The artist that was probably among the first who started to experiment and break traditional norms in painting was Leonardo da Vinci. His most famous work created is “Mona Lisa”. It is a very particular painting in which da Vinci’s style is emphasized for “this figure of a woman, dressed in the Florentine fashion of her day and seated in a visionary, mountainous landscape, is a remarkable instance of Leonardo’s sfumato technique of soft, heavily shaded modeling” (Cuelar 1999:120). What made Mona Lisa universally recognized and admired is her enigmatic expression which is alluring and aloof at the same time.

It is also worthy to note that the portrait is executed to emphasize her elegance that may be sen in the slight opening of her lips at the corners of the mouth. To achieve this effect, Leonardo da Vinci uses a specific technique known as the sfumato. This method implies the sophisticated dissolving of the forms themselves, continuous interaction between light and shade that eventually creates uncertainty about the time of day.

Thus, artists representing different countries and even epochs are significantly influenced by Renaissance that made their works original, unusual and exciting for connoisseurs.

Cuellar, J. The Mystery of Leonardo da Vinci. New York: Lynne Rienner Pub, 1999.
Giles, P. Salvador Dali, and His Creative Work. New York: Touchstone, 1998.
Halsman, P. Beyond the Melting Clocks: A Dali Retrospective. New York: New Publishers, 1999.
Zakes, M. Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. London: Zed Books, 1995.


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