Art history lecture is enlightening to listeners

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Liz Spencer/The Chart

Head of interpretation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Dr. Rose May, asks the question, “What is Renaissance art?”

Robin Fjelstad, Staff Writer

Dr. Rose May, head of interpretation – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City began her presentation at Corley Auditorium  on Renaissance art,  Sept. 13, with the tale of an art competition. The competition took place in 1401 in Florence, Italy.

Each artist was to create a relief panel for the Baptistery doors depicting the ”Sacrifice of Isaac.”

The sacrifice of Isaac is a biblical story taken from the book of Genesis. The rules were very specific. Seven artists entered the contest.

The entries by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Fillippo Brunelleschi are the only surviving submissions. May said there are conflicting reports as to who the winner of the competition was.

May defined Renaissance art as “works of art that were produced during a particular time, but their creators were striving to create a new style and they were doing this by imitating nature.”

Another renaissance artist from Florence, which May’s presentation focused on, was Masaccio.

His works “The Holy Trinity”, painted in 1425, and “The Tribute Money,” painted before his death in 1427, demonstrate the fresco style of painting, and the one-point perspective system (created by Brunelleschi) used to produce the work.

“The surface of a picture is thought of as a window that you look through onto another world where the scene unfolds,” said May, “With this system an artist can create a pictorial space that looks a lot more realistic.”

May continued her presentation with other art media of the period, including Brunelleschi’s architecture and Donatello’s sculptures, and finished with the return to the more traditional painting style of Sandro Botticelli.

May said she wanted to leave listeners who have the opportunity to visit American museums to view Renaissance art with a question. Is it only a body of work created for a period of time, or is it a new style created by the artists of the time imitating nature and ancient art?