Northern Renaissance Art Movement

Germany 1497 - 1614

Northern Renaissance Art Movement, History, Northern Renaissance Paintings & Artists.

The Brief German Renaissance.

The first thirty years of the sixteenth century were one of the most brilliant and exciting periods in the art history of Germany. Germany was blessed with a unique generation of famous artists. Who were in constant contact and travel to other cities and countries. Although Durer dominated the country's cultural scene, a productive, intense debate developed around him. This was a brief yet splendid period of the Renaissance. Artists such as Albrecht Altdorfer, Lucas Cranach, Grunewald all painted for different patrons during this time. Then the Reformation soon came crashing down on everyone. Luther repudiated all devotional images, which brought an end to religious painting and hence a drastic statis in Northern Renaissance German art.

The Flemish and Dutch Renaissance.

The first few decades of the sixteenth century saw a major turning point in Low Countries art. The decline of the last generation of great masters in the fifteenth century tradition made way for a new current, based on the reworking of the novel trends in Italian art, experienced first-hand in journeys to the south and combined with the decorative exuberance and descriptive detail typical of Flemish art, Antwerp became the center along the North Sea coast. Painters like Hieronymus Bosh, Metsys, Mabuse traveled to Venice and Rome to study Italian art, gaining new points of view. But they didn't go there basically to learn, but to make their own particular contribution to the advancement of the painting of the High Renaissance and the birth of the “modern manner”. The Antwerp “Italianate painters” formed a  recognizable movement, in close contact with the artistic centers of the northern provinces, where Albrecht Durer's influence was strongest.

Jan Gossaert, one of the most original and influential of the “Italianate painters” of the Flemish Renaissance, took the name Mabuse from the ancient name of his hometown. First documented in the Antwerp Painters' Guild in 1503, he traveled to Rome with Duke Philip of Burgundy in 1508. On his return, Mabuse's innovations began to show in his works, he began to display an original style that retained some of the meticulous attention to detail typical of fifteenth-century Flemish painting, but also borrowed from the Italian “modern manner”, particularly in their use of light, perspective, architectural settings, monumental figures and the relationship between figures and their surroundings.

The Birth of Oil Painting Goes Mainstream.

In the Netherlands, painters were improving upon oil paint, which had before been used for painting on leather because animal hides needed a flexible paint that would not crack and flake off. Before using oils, painters had used tempera, but when they began to use the oil they far surpassed the range of techniques they had been working with. Oil allowed for variation in light, texture, tone, and value and because it can be thinned with oil and create one effect and thinned with turpentine to create another, it gave them the ability to paint light, mist, fog, chiffon and other ephemeral elements into their art. Oil techniques were spread to Italy and then from there to Venice.

The Northern painters wanted to explore the magical mystery of nature and objects and present it to the world in detail. This paved the way for a modern understanding of how space, distance, and time affect color and how to manipulate that knowledge of canvas. To explain, this effect is seen in the differing colors of mountains in a photograph, with the foreground mountains in their true colors, but more distant mountains showing in purples and blues. Through these two areas of focus, color, and perspective, they were able to devise aerial and color perspectives as well and these four things became standard artistic tools in later Realism movements.

With the Roman Catholic Church losing power to the Protestant Reformation and the whims of kings and other points of contention, secular thought and freedom of mind were becoming more prevalent. Exchanges of ideas such as Humanism and the enjoyment and investigation of science, music, art, and literature helped foster the foundation for creating philosophy based on new discovery and more open minds. Secular literature and art broke away from the forbidding nature of the Church and works were created that would have never seen the light in the centuries before.

Most of the visual art activity in the Northern Renaissance occurred in the “low countries” of Holland, Flanders, and Germany. Previous styles of religious artwork had placed God in the Heavens or were singular figures. This period saw painters placing Biblical figures in earthly contexts. That era also saw the rise of non-religious individual portraits, of people who were rich and famous. Johannes Vermeer did oil paintings of servants and everyday people such as Girl With a Pearl Earring.

Other Northern Renaissance artists: Quentin Massys, Hans Memling.

Partly from: Identify This Art and TheArtist.me

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