From: Myron Ort (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Oct 21 2009 - 00:49:01 PDT
Masaccio was not only an innovator with perspective. His other
innovations would eventually point the way to future evolution and
ultimately, centuries later, the unshackling of perspective.
We point to him.
An informed painter can see this thread and comprehend how it developed.
Here is just a collage of online snippets:
Through the use of colors, he created an illusion of depth by subtly
diminishing the tones as distance between the eye and object increased.
Masaccio introduced humanism into his art by putting man and the
world at the center of his works, rather than at the periphery. This
is opposite of the theocentric universe of medieval art. His subjects
also appear to be drawn from the life he saw around him, rather than
from the traditional models he inherited.
Masaccio's significance for modern painting was never doubted. In
fact, Alberti and Da Vinci studied his Carime frescoes in order "to
learn the precept and rules for painting well." His work has been
called pure, unadorned, and classic, on one hand, and expressive,
plastic, and highly chromatic, on the other.
Masaccio used realistic contrasts of light and shade and the
startling novelty of continuous luminous color areas that built forms
and almost eliminated drawn edges. All of these innovations were
recorded in the handbook on painting written in 1435 by Leon Battista
Alberti, which was dedicated to Brunelleschi and alluded to Masaccio.
His understanding of the effects of light falling onto subjects and
filtering through space was a monumental leap in understanding and
reinvented the world of painting.
What distinguishes the painter Masaccio from other artists of his
time was his concern with the true appearance of things.
Masaccio inaugurated a new naturalistic approach to painting that was
concerned less with details and ornamentation than with simplicity
and unity, and less with flat surfaces than with the illusion of
three dimensionality. Together with Brunelleschi and Donatello, he
was a founder of the Renaissance.
The fresco series for the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del
Carmine, Florence (1427?), on which he also collaborated with
Masolino, illustrates another of Masaccio's great innovations—the
portrayal of natural light to define the human body and its
draperies. In these frescoes, rather than bathing his scenes in flat
uniform light, Masaccio illuminated them from a single source of
light and created a play of light and subtle shadow that imitated the
way light falls on three-dimensional objects, giving his figures a
natural, realistic quality unknown in the art of his day.
Masaccio was painting true nature. He painted so that his pictures
looked as though they were “in the round”:they give a feeling of
atmosphere; and he has introduced real composition. He lived only
until he was twety-seven, yet he opened almost the entire door to
He was concerned with light and the way it gives the illusion of
solidity to the painted figure.
His concern with the sculpturally conceived figure, bathed in light
and presented in a strong and simple manner, created a work of quiet
dignity and great monumentality in that it appears to be larger than
it really is.
In addition to the use of light to unite the space of the painting
with the space of the observer, Masaccio also employed what appears
to be the earliest practical example of the one-point perspective
system, later to be formulated in words by Alberti. All the highest
aims of early Renaissance painting are here: simplicity, strength,
monumentality;man as observer, as actor, and as participant in the
work of art.
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